Learn how climate change is influencing weather extremes like drought and El Niño events
Learn about rising seas and how the Coastal Commission is helping California prepare to adapt
Human activity is causing global climate change, which will have increasingly significant impacts on California and its coastal environments and communities. The Coastal Act mandates the California Coastal Commission to "protect, conserve, restore, and enhance" the state's coastal resources. As a result, the Commission must consider climate change, including global warming and potential sea level rise, through its planning, regulatory, and educational activities, and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the detrimental impacts of global warming on the California coast.
Two additional pieces of California's legislation inform the Commission's response to climate change. In 2006, the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, Pavley/Nunez) established a ground-breaking, comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Subsequently, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 (SB 375, Steinberg) further directed coordination of transportation and land use planning with the goal of promoting sustainable communities. Although the Air Resources Board is the primary agency responsible for monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Coastal Commission is invested in helping meet the state's goals. The Commission reviews coastal development projects on a case-by-case basis in an effort to reduce emissions and prepare for potential impacts. The Commission's staff meets regularly to investigate and discuss climate change issues and planning related to topics including green building, local governments and local coastal programs (LCPs), smart growth, public education and information, interagency coordination, adaptation to climate change impacts, carbon footprint scoring systems, carbon offsets, cap and trade, and carbon sequestration.
Following two sets of document revisions and two extended public comment periods, the Coastal Commission unanimously adopted the Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance document on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at its hearing in Chula Vista. The interpretive guidelines are intended to assist Local Coastal Programs and Coastal Development Permit applicants prepare for sea level rise within the context of the Coastal Act. The Guidance can also support other planning activities such as the development of Port Master Plans, Long Range Development Plans, and Public Works Plans, when taken in conjunction with relevant policies and legislation.
Governor Brown's Executive Order B-30-15, issued on April 29, 2015, calls for state agencies to take climate change into account in their planning and investment decisions. It requires agencies to ensure that priority is given to actions that build climate preparedness and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide flexible and adaptive approaches to prepare for uncertain climate impacts, protect the state's most vulnerable populations, and prioritize natural infrastructure solutions. For the full story, visit the Governor's website.
On April 1, 2015, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-29-15, which directs the state to conserve water, increase enforcement against water waste, invest in innovative water management technologies, and streamline government response to the drought. This has implications for Commission activities related to permitting development and protecting sensitive water resources such as groundwater aquifers, wetlands, and riparian areas. To read more, visit the Governor's website and see the Executive Order.
The California Natural Resources Agency, in coordination with other state agencies, has released an update to its 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy, which augments previously identified adaptation strategies in light of advances in climate science and risk management options. In its Coast and Oceans chapter, the 2014 Safeguarding California document identifies amendments to Local Coastal Programs as a key strategy for addressing sea level rise in California. It also calls for sustainable community planning and design, and the protection of natural resources and public access to coastal areas, in the face of climate change. To learn more, see CNRA's website.
Based on its 2011 State Sea-Level Rise Resolution, the Ocean Protection Council has updated its interim Guidance document for addressing sea level rise in the State of California to include the best current science. Specifically, the 2013 State Sea-Level Rise Guidance provides information and recommendations to enhance consistency across agencies in their development of approaches to sea level rise. For more information, visit OPC's website.