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California’s Future: Climate Change


California faces a twofold climate challenge: finding cost-effective ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and preparing for the changes that are expected even if global emissions fall. Greenhouse gas emissions pose a serious threat. The state experienced 7 of its 10 warmest years on record from 2012 to 2018, and warming is expected to continue. Sea level is predicted to rise 2 to 7 feet 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.

Starting in 2006 with AB 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act), the state has set increasingly ambitious emission reduction goals. In 2018, then-governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order calling for California to become carbon neutral by 2045, and Governor Newsom signed an executive order in 2019 to leverage $700 billion in investments to increase climate resilience.

California’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions have brought the state into conflict with the federal government, which has rolled back several federal climate-related regulations, attempted to block state climate initiatives, and begun to with­draw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. The PPIC Statewide Survey has found that about two in three Californians favor the state’s emission reduction goals, and most see California’s global leadership on climate change as important.

This publication is part of a briefing kit that highlights our state’s most pressing long-term policy challenges in 11 key areas:

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the PPIC Corporate Circle and the PPIC Donor Circle.

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