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California climate disruption costs: billions and trillions?

Eroding beaches, disappearing snowpacks, subdivisions decimated by wildfires. Climate change in California could be expensive.

Now the costs of global warming's projected effects in the nation's largest state have been quantified. According to a new report, "California Climate Risk and Response," authored by UC Berkeley researchers Fredrich Kahrl and David Roland-Holst, about $2.5 trillion of real estate assets in California are at risk from extreme weather events, sea level rise and wildfires with a projected annual price tag of $300 million to $3.9 billion.

That's a big spread in estimated damages: The final number will depend on how much the earth warms under various scenarios and whether the nations commit to slashing greenhouse gas emissions under a global warming treaty to be negotiated next year. "This is a good review of existing studies," said Anthony Brunello, a California Resources Agency official. "It assesses the real, comprehensive statewide impacts for the first time."

Brunello and other California officials are busy planning a comprehensive "Climate Adaptation Strategy," to commit the state to concrete prevention measures. Six task forces covering biodiversity and habitat, infrastructure, oceans and coastal resources, public health, water, forestry and agriculture will release adaptation strategies for public comment next month.

"Our report makes clear the most expensive thing we can do about climate change is nothing," said Roland-Holst. But he added, "This is not a doomsday report.... California can adapt, needs to adapt and early action is cheaper than denial.... If we make the right investments, we can avert much of the damage in any scenario."

California is also moving to adopt comprehensive regulations to slash its own greenhouse gas emissions by 15% below today's level. But that would only put a dent in the trajectory of climate change, unless dramatic measures are undertaken nationwide and across other continents, according to scientists.

The report covers seven economic sectors: water; energy; tourism and recreation; real estate; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; transportation; and public health. It covers such issues as the possible collapse of the ski industry, a water-starved hydroelectric system and an increase in warming-related smog. The research was funded by Next 10, a nonprofit set up by high-tech entrepreneur F. Noel Perry.

-- Margot Roosevelt

Comments () | Archives (4)

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I believe there is global warming, but I doubt man's impact on it. If water vapor is a greenhouse gas, and comprises over 90% of the green house gases, what effect is reducing so-called "carbon footprints" going to have. Oh that's right, Al Gore will make billions and Arnold can spend billions on pet projects.

In this economy, environmentalists are going to have to learn how to ask for donations in a recession. Shar McBee

But after the destruction imagine all the jobs created to rebuild!

Professor Roland-Holst previously claimed that greenhouse gas regulations will create jobs and those jobs are a benefit. In the real world those jobs are a cost, not a benefit. But now he discounts new job creation in the context of warming damage. Why?

I really wish the Times would stop issuing press releases for Next 10. Instead, they should scrutinize any conflicts of interest of F. Noel Perry, the founder, and Roland-Holst. Are they pushing regulation because they stand to profit from it? Is Noel Perry an investor in Applied Materials (an alternative energy company)? Can their economic analyses stand up to even the most cursory review? You wouldn't know any of this from reading the LA Times.

If I were a Californian, I'ld insist on a second opinion. I'd also want to scrutinize the basic assumptions.


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