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New IPCC report outlines volatile future for agriculture, infrastructure, and coastal communities. 

The latest IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report was recently released, providing “unequivocal” evidence that human activity is causing climate change. For the first time, climate science research has integrated information based on different models predicting future emissions levels to illustrate the predicted effects of climate change on a regional level.  Like many coastal communities, Santa Cruz is already experiencing the impacts with higher drought frequency, increased risk of wild fires, and flooding.

The IPCC report describes three major impacts of climate change and the effect it will have on human and natural systems:

1)                    Physical Impacts – Effects on geophysical conditions including droughts, floods, reduced snowpack, glacial melting, sea level rise, increased frequency of severe storms, ocean acidification.  Below is a map commissioned by the State of California showing parts of Santa Cruz with various sea level rise scenarios:

farming drought

Prices expected to rise between $0.18 and $0.75 per pound for many popular fruits and vegetables

2)                    Economic Impacts – reduced agricultural productivity and food security (higher costs of food), increased cost of water in drought conditions, increased infrastructural damage due to floods and storms. Both agriculture and infrastructure will be acutely affected by increases in temperature and frequency of storms. The vast majority of the world’s population is concentrated in coastal urban areas where the risk of damage from sea level rise and extreme storm events is the highest.

3)                    Ecological Impacts – temperature increase may affect species population, distribution, migration, and scope (i.e. aquatic species moving pole ward, increased tree mortality, northern shift of plant and pest species), and biochemical changes in ocean affecting populations of marine organisms.


How to Increase Resilience to Climate Change on the Central Coast

Despite the immense challenges faced by communities along the Central Coast, myriad adaptation strategies can be employed to mitigate the effects of climate change. With crisis also comes opportunity in the form of new business ventures, sustainability initiatives, and the strengthening of community ties. Local government and the private sector will play a pivotal role creating social programs to protect farmers, businesses, and everyday citizens. Renewed commitments to water conservation and storage, climate conscious land management, and renewable energy must be top priorities for Central Coast policy makers and business leaders alike.


The full report can be found here.