California’s Future: Climate Change
Global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are raising air and water temperatures as well as sea levels, with serious consequences for California. California’s four warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014, and warming is expected to continue over the century. Sea level is predicted to rise 20 to 54 inches on California’s coast by 2100, and the frequency of extreme events such as droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and floods is expected to increase. Higher temperatures result in more precipitation falling as rain (and less as snow), which will increase both the frequency and magnitude of flooding and diminish water reserves in the Sierra snowpack. Even if all GHG emissions ceased today, some of these changes would be unavoidable because the climate system changes slowly.
In the face of these threats, California has emerged as a leader in global efforts to reduce GHG emissions. Starting in 2006 with AB 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act), the state has set increasingly ambitious emission reduction goals. In 2018, Governor Brown—nearing the end of his tenure—issued an executive order that called for California to become carbon neutral by 2045.
The July 2018 PPIC Statewide Survey found that two in three Californians believe the effects of global warming are already happening, and a similar proportion favor the state’s emission reduction goals. The survey also found that state leadership on climate change is important to most Californians. Governor Newsom—who has promised to continue California’s efforts on climate change—faces a twofold policy challenge: finding cost-effective ways to reduce GHG emissions and preparing for the climate changes that are expected even if global emissions are reduced.
This publication is part of a briefing kit that highlights our state’s most pressing long-term policy challenges in 11 key areas: