Climate change in California

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Animated map of the progression of the drought in California in 2014, during which the drought covered 100% of California. As of December 2014, 75% of California was under Extreme (Red) or Exceptional (Maroon) Drought. The California drought continued after 2014.[1][2]

Climate change in California had already tremendous direct effects of global warming like drought and wildfire making the situation critical.[3] A 2011 study projected that the frequency and magnitude of both maximum and minimum temperatures would increase significantly as a result of global warming.[4]

Extreme weather incidents[edit]

A 2011 study projected that the frequency and magnitude of both maximum and minimum temperatures would increase significantly as a result of global warming.[4]


In 2017, a study projected that the single largest threat to Los Angeles County hospitals related to climate change is the direct impacts resulting from the expected increase in wildfires. In Los Angeles County, 34% of hospitals are within one mile of very high fire hazard severity zones, with 24% of these hospitals having a disproportionate share of patient load and 12% impacted by health care shortages. In addition, one of the hospitals studied was in danger of sea-coastal flooding due to the effects of climate change. This issue will become a greater obstacle as sea levels rise due to increase annual temperatures.[5]

As a consequence of further global warming, it is projected that there will be an increase in risk due to climate-driven wildfires in the coming decades. Because of warming, frequent droughts, and the legacy of past land management and expansion of residential areas, both people and the ecology with which we coexist are more vulnerable to wildfires. Wildfire activity is closely tied to temperature and drought over time. Globally, the length of the fire season increased by nearly 19% from 1979 to 2013, with significantly longer seasons in the western states. Since 1985, more than 50% of the wildfire area burned in the western United States can be attributed to anthropogenic climate change. In addition, due to human fire suppression methods, there is a build of fuels in some ecosystems, making them more vulnerable to wildfires. There is greater risk of fires occurring in denser, dryer forests where histrionically these fires occurred in low-density areas. Lastly, with increases in human population, we have expanded out communities into areas that are at higher risk to wildfire threat, making these same populations more vulnerable to structural damage and death due to wildfires. Since 1990, the average annual number of homes lost to wildfires has increased by 300%. Almost 900,000 of western US residences are currently in high risk wildfire areas with nearly 35% of wildfires in California starting within this high risk areas. Thus, policies must be generated that allow for adaptation to increased wildfire risk and reduce further vulnerability in these high risk areas.[6]

California wildfires will only get worse in the future because of climate change.[7]


According to the NOAA Drought Task Force report of 2014, the drought is not part of a long-term change in precipitation and was a symptom of the natural variability, although the record-high temperature that accompanied the recent drought may have been amplified due to human-induced global warming.[8] This was confirmed by a 2015 scientific study which estimated that global warming "accounted for 8–27% of the observed drought anomaly in 2012–2014... Although natural variability dominates, anthropogenic warming has substantially increased the overall likelihood of extreme California droughts."


In February 2014, the Californian drought reached for the first time in the history of the State Water Project to shortages of water supplies. The California Department of Water Resources planned to reduce water allocations to farmland by 50%. California's 38 million residents experienced 13 consecutive months of drought. This is particularly an issue for the state's 44.7 billion dollar agricultural industry, which produces nearly half of all U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables.[10] According to NASA, tests published in January 2014 have shown that the twelve months prior to January 2014 were the driest on record, since record-keeping began in 1885.[11] Lack of water due to low snowpack prompted Californian governor Jerry Brown to order a series of stringent mandatory water restrictions on April 1, 2015.[12]

Percent Area in U.S. Drought Monitor Categories


Health consequences[edit]

Expected increases in extreme weather could lead to increased risk of illnesses and death.[13]

Heat waves[edit]

From May to September 1999 – 2003, a study was conducted in nine Californian counties that found that for every 10 °F (5.6 °C) increase in temperature, there is a 2.6 percent increase in cardiovascular deaths.[14]

2006 heat wave[edit]

A study of the 2006 Californian heat wave showed an increase of 16,166 emergency room visits, and 1,182 hospitalizations. There was also a dramatic increase in heat related illnesses; a six-fold increase in heat-related emergency room visits, and 10-fold increase in hospitalizations.[15]

A study of seven counties impacted by the 2006 heat wave found a 9 percent increase in daily mortality per 10 degrees Fahrenheit change din apparent temperature for all counties combined. This estimate is 3 times greater than the effect estimated for the rest of the warm season. The estimates indicate that actual mortality during the 2006 heat wave was two or three times greater than the initial coroner estimate of 147 deaths.[16]

Air pollution[edit]

Research suggests that the majority of air pollution related health effects are caused by ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM). It should be noted that many other pollutants that are associated with climate change, such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, also have health consequences.[17]

Five of the ten most ozone-polluted metropolitan areas in the United States (Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, and Sacramento) are in California.[18][19] Californians suffer from a large variety of health consequences due to air pollution – including 18,000 premature deaths each year and tens of thousands of other illnesses.[20]

Climate change may lead to exacerbated air pollution problems. Higher temperatures catalyze chemical interactions between nitrogen oxide, volatile organic gases and sunlight that lead to increases in ambient ozone concentrations in urban areas. A study found that for each 1 degree Celsius (1 °C) rise in temperature in the United States, there are an estimated 20–30 excess cancer cases, as well as approximately 1000 (CI: 350–1800) excess air-pollution-associated deaths.[21] About 40 percent of the additional deaths may be due to ozone and the rest to particulate matter annually. Three hundred of these annual deaths are thought to occur in California.[22]

Economic consequences[edit]

Basic necessities[edit]

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that under a business-as-usual scenario, between the years 2025 and 2100, the cost of providing water to the western states in the United States will increase from $200 billion to $950 billion per year, an estimated 0.93–1 percent of the United States' gross domestic product (GDP). Four climate change impacts—hurricane damage, energy costs, real estate losses, and water costs—alone are projected to cost 1.8 percent of the GDP of the United States, or, just under $1.9 trillion in 2008 U.S. dollars by the year 2100.[23]

Job opportunities[edit]

A study conducted in 2009 showed that increases in frequency and intensity of extreme weather due to climate change will lead to a decreased productivity of agriculture, revenue losses, and the potential for lay offs.[24] Changing weather and precipitation patterns could require expensive adaptation measures, such as relocating crop cultivation, changing the composition or type of crops, and increasing inputs such as pesticides to adapt to changes in ecological composition, that lead to economic denigration and job loss.[18] Climate change has adverse effects on agricultural productivity in California that cause laborers to be increasingly affected by job loss. For example, the two highest-value agricultural products in California’s $30 billion agriculture sector are dairy products (milk and cream, valued at $3.8 billion annually) and grapes ($3.2 billion annually).[25] Climate change is expected to decrease dairy production by between 7–22 percent by the end of the century.[26] It is also expected to adversely affect the ripening of wine grapes, substantially reducing their market value.[27]

Climates changes mitigation policies[edit]

California has taken legislative steps in the hope of reducing the risk of possible effects of climate change by incentives and plans for clean cars, renewable energy, and pollution controls on industry.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Drought maps show just how thirsty California has become". L.A. Times. May 5, 2016.
  2. ^ "U.S. Drought Monitor". Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  3. ^ Gallagher, Nora (2018-03-03). "Southern Californians know: climate change is real, it is deadly and it is here". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  4. ^ a b Mastrandrea, M. D.; Tebaldi, C.; Snyder, C. W.; Schneider, S. H. (2011). "Current and future impacts of extreme events in California". Climatic Change. 109: 43. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0311-6.
  5. ^ Adelaine, Sabrina A.; Sato, Mizuki; Jin, Yufang; Godwin, Hilary (October 2017). "An Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Los Angeles (California USA) Hospitals, Wildfires Highest Priority". Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. 32 (5): 556–562. doi:10.1017/S1049023X17006586. ISSN 1945-1938. PMID 28606202.
  6. ^ Schoennagel, Tania; Balch, Jennifer K.; Brenkert-Smith, Hannah; Dennison, Philip E.; Harvey, Brian J.; Krawchuk, Meg A.; Mietkiewicz, Nathan; Morgan, Penelope; Moritz, Max A. (2017-05-02). "Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114 (18): 4582–4590. doi:10.1073/pnas.1617464114.
  7. ^ "California wildfires will get worse in the future because of climate change, experts say". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Williams,, A. Park; et al. (2015). "Contribution of anthropogenic warming to California drought during 2012–2014". Geophysical Research Letters. 42 (16): 6819. Bibcode:2015GeoRL..42.6819W. doi:10.1002/2015GL064924.
  10. ^ "California drought: no relief in sight, Drinking water and farming are at risk from state's ongoing drought, but forecasts offer little hope". The Guardian. UK. February 3, 2014. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  11. ^ Drought Stressing California’s Plantscape, Earth Observatory, NASA, February 2014
  12. ^ "California governor orders mandatory water restrictions amid drought". FOX News, Associated Press. April 1, 2015. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  13. ^ "IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change". Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  14. ^ Basu, R., and B. D. Ostro. 2008. “A Multicounty Analysis Identifying the Populations Vulnerable to Mortality Associated with High Ambient Temperature in California.” Am J Epidemiol 168(6): 632–37
  15. ^ Knowlton, K., M. Rotkin-Ellman, G. King, H. G. Margolis, D. Smith, G. Solomon, R. Trent, and P. English. 2009. "The 2006 California Heat Wave: Impacts on Hospitalizations and Emergency Department Visits". Environ Health Perspect 117(1): 61–67
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 25, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
  17. ^ Public health-related impacts of climate change in California. California Energy Commission "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 25, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
  18. ^ a b Climate Change in California: Health, Economic and Equity Impacts. Redefining Progress: Oakland, California
  19. ^ ALA (American Lung Association). 2008. State of the Air: 2008. American Lung Association: New York.
  20. ^ CARB (California Air Resources Board). Methodology for Estimating Premature Deaths Associated with Long-term Exposure to Fine Airborne Particulate Matter in California)
  21. ^ On the causal link between carbon dioxide and air pollution mortality
  22. ^ Boosting the Benefits: Improving air quality and health by reducing global warming pollution in California
  23. ^ The Cost of Climate Change: What We'll Pay if Global Warming Continues Unchecked. NRDC: New York, New York
  24. ^ “Effect of Climate Change on Field Crop Production in the Central Valley of California
  25. ^ California agriculture statistical review. Sacramento, California. California Agriculture Statistics Service
  26. ^ Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability
  27. ^ Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California
  28. ^ Barringer, Felicity (October 13, 2012). "In California, a Grand Experiment to Rein in Climate Change". The New York Times.

Further reading[edit]

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