Scripps researchers release report on climate change

By Scripps News

A biennial report released Wednesday by a team of experts that advises California’s governor suggests that without action, severe and costly climate change impacts are possible across the state.

The state Climate Action Team (CAT) report uses updated, comprehensive scientific research to outline environmental and economic climate impacts. Its authors include Dan Cayan, a climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, and a member of the CAT steering team.

The technical papers in the report analyze such research areas as the impacts of sea level rise, higher temperatures, increased wildfires, decreased water supplies, increased energy demand, among others, on the state’s environment, industries and economic prosperity. Each of the papers has or will undergo peer review by technical experts in private, public and governmental entities.

Impacts of climate change to California’s coast, agriculture, forest and communities have been known and studied for years; however the studies that support the CAT report suggest that actual greenhouse gas emissions are outstripping 2006 projections. Of particular interest are the several papers focusing on the impacts of a rise in sea levels to coastal communities and increased potential of wildfires to residential areas.

“The Climate Action Team plays an essential role in the implementation of the state’s climate initiatives and is guided by these important technical studies to ensure policy decisions are based on sound science,” said Linda Adams, Secretary for Environmental Protection and Chair of the state’s CAT.

“Any delay in fighting global warming would be detrimental to our economic stability – costing us billions of dollars and dampening the state’s most important economic sectors. Taking immediate action on climate change is essential to slow the projected rate of warming. We also need to make smarter decisions in order to anticipate and adapt to the changes.”

“This report represents one of the most valuable products that the Scripps Institution of Oceanography team and the state’s other world-class researchers deliver to the people of California,” said Scripps Director Tony Haymet. “It’s a great credit to the leadership of Dan and the rest of the steering team.”

The CAT report, now available for public comment, synthesizes 37 research papers written by world-class scientists from prominent universities and research institutions. Three additional papers are still undergoing peer reviews and will be considered for inclusion in the final report later this summer.

The reports were funded, in part, through the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program and represent the most comprehensive and detailed scientific information to date on climate change impacts to California.

“The assessment finds an even stronger set of vulnerabilities to climate change than we found two years ago,” said Cayan, a climate researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey in addition to Scripps. “This underscores the need for careful, continued monitoring of the natural and societal environment in California and heightens the imperative to sharpen our

modeling tools to provide regional projections that can be evaluated by state policymakers and other decision-makers.”

The research papers also serve as the scientific foundation on which the state is developing its first Climate Adaptation Strategy (CAS). A chapter of the CAT report previews this work. Understanding that adaptation and mitigation must complement each other in the fight against climate change, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a directive in November 2008 tasking the Natural Resources Agency with developing a CAS. When complete, this comprehensive effort will improve coordination within state government and more effectively plan for climate impacts from sea level rise, increased temperatures, shifting precipitation and extreme weather events.

“Delay in preparing for climate change is not an option,” said Energy Commission Vice Chair James Boyd. “Based on the best and most current science, these new scenarios used in the CAT report will help California plan and manage against the potential impacts of a changing climate.”

To view each of the draft papers and a list of authors, visit