Fire-Plagued California Facing More Climate-Change Risks

(Bloomberg) -- Two-thirds of California’s beaches may be washed away by the end of the century, according to the state’s latest forecast.

California’s fourth statewide climate assessment details the increasingly dire impact of climate change, including rising seas, climbing temperatures, more land lost to wildfires and extreme water shortages. It was issued Monday, the day before lawmakers moved to require all the state’s electricity to come from wind, solar and other clean sources by 2045.

The report offers new details on the risks faced by the state and updates projections for the impact of the changing climate. Without significant efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the average annual maximum daily temperature is expected to increase 5.6 to 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit (3.1 to 4.9 degrees Celsius) by 2100. The impact will be felt far sooner.

Water from the state’s crucial snowpack may drop by two-thirds by 2050, with agricultural water shortages reaching 16 percent in some areas. That leads to less soil moisture. This summer already offered a raging preview of what happens to forests dried out by extreme heat. Communities smaller than 10,000 people are expected to suffer disproportionately from shortages and more expensive water. The state’s 2012 to 2016 drought was a meteorological shot across the bow.

More Wildfires

Climate change is making forests more likely to burn, with a possible 50 percent jump in extreme wildfires by 2100 and an average 77 percent increase in average area burned, according to the analysis. Managed fires and pruning forests would help lower damage projections.

Fire-Plagued California Facing More Climate-Change Risks

Owners of energy-related transportation infrastructure will encounter threats as years and decades tick by, according to the report. Docks, terminals and refineries will face growing risk from sea-level rise and flood. Oil- and gasoline-bearing roads and rail are also at greater risk of harm from wildfire.

Increased air-conditioning use in hotter temperatures will drive power demand higher, particularly inland and along the southern coast. Meanwhile, energy infrastructure in and around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region is susceptible in the long term to compounded challenges of rising seas and sinking ground. Existing levees may fall below federal standards by mid-century.

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