Climate Change Threats and Solutions for the Sacramento Valley
- Sacramento temperatures expected to be 10 F higher by century’s end
- Sierra Nevada snowpack to nearly disappear by 2100, plus many other impacts
- Report suggests possible solutions for every challenge and threat posed to region
But there are many solutions at our disposal, which could grow the economy, create new jobs, and reduce climate threats on households, businesses and industry.
That’s according to the Sacramento Valley Region Report, one of 13 summary reports within California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment. The regional report was led by the University of California, Davis, and includes several solutions to minimize or avoid these threats between now and 2050.
“This is where Sacramento’s homeless and housing challenges intersect with climate threats,” said coordinating lead author Benjamin Houlton, director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment and a member of the University of California’s Global Climate Leadership Council. “Climate change is a threat multiplier for just about everything we depend on and value. A climate-smart Sacramento transforms this major challenge into a better economy, creating a cleaner, healthier and more just community for all.”
“It’s going to be a different world for us and especially our kids,” Houlton said. “To cope with rising temperatures, we need to start learning from communities like Phoenix, Arizona, that look like now what we may look like in the future.”
Parts of Sacramento with extensive asphalt surfaces and roofs, without much tree shade, are up to 7 degrees warmer in the summer compared to the metropolitan average.
To reduce heat exposure for residents, the report suggests planting trees to shade parking and neighborhoods, using green-building design like cool roofs, and opening public cooling centers where citizens without air conditioning can go during high temperature extremes.
Flooding threats to urban areas may be reduced by levee setbacks, flood detention basins and better land use planning and building codes. Floodplain restoration projects can also help create water storage, flows that help fish and other wildlife, and enhance flood protection.
Annual snowpack in the Northern Sierra, a key water source for the region, is expected to nearly disappear by the end of the century, and precipitation will fall mostly as rain. This could bring more surface runoff and require water reservoirs to operate at a lower capacity to avoid floods. More extreme droughts are also expected with impacts to people, plants, fish and other wildlife.
“Overall, the report shows that the Sacramento region faces serious challenges with a changing climate,” said coordinating lead author Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. “Climate change must be addressed along with many other challenges in the region. Fortunately, the valley has many institutions with skills and resources to help address these challenges, if we are attentive and organized. The Sacramento Valley’s original European settlers faced major climate, economic and health challenges when they first arrived. They suffered for decades before they became organized to prosper in their new climate.”
Investments in precision agriculture, water sensors and drones, and planting crop varieties more tolerant of drought and heat should help. The report provides case studies of local ranchers and farmers working with scientists to improve their soils, store carbon, increase water efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases.
To meet electricity demands, the report suggests investing in battery storage solutions, decarbonizing buildings and transportation, and deploying distributed generation and energy storage for more local control of the energy supply.
Additional leading authors of the report include Steven Greco, Jonathan London, Helene Margolis, Debbie Niemeier, Joan Ogden, Paul Ullrich and Stephen Wheeler of UC Davis, and Steven Ostoja of USDA Climate Hub.
Research scientist James Thorne also was lead author on the overall assessment’s capstone report, which summarizes the key findings.
To access the full California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, please visit www.ClimateAssessment.ca.gov.