Despite ongoing efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, there is a growing recognition that the impacts of climate change are already occurring at current CO2 levels and we must begin planning to adapt to those changes. California held its first Climate Adaptation Forum (Forum) on August 19, 2014, and I was able to attend. The Forum, sponsored by the Local Government Commission and the State of California (among others), was organized to bring the network of climate adaptation practitioners together to share challenges and successes in recognition of the need to begin planning ways to adapt to the changing climate. In the words of Kate Meis, Executive Director of the Local Government Commission:

“Climate change is having, and will continue to have, widespread impacts on California’s diverse populations, renowned resources and preeminent economy. In addition to reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions, there are steps that must be taken to protect against climate change impacts that are already occurring. A coordinated response across all sectors and all levels of leadership will be needed to protect our great state and ensure ongoing prosperity.”

The Forum was a revealing experience in several ways. First, it confirmed for me that concerns related to climate change are valid and shared. Second, it was inspiring to see so many working on innovative solutions to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. And third, it was overwhelming to see just how much work will be needed to find our way back to a (reasonably) safe level of CO2 emissions.

Locally, I’ve been involved in the County’s Regional Climate Protection Authority’s (RCPA) efforts to develop the Climate Action 2020 plan. The RCPA was created in 2009 “to improve coordination on climate change issues and establish a clearinghouse for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” The Climate Action Plan is intended to provide measures to reduce GHG emissions as well as measures to adapt to coming climate change from existing emissions. The Climate Action Plan will allow the County of Sonoma as well as the cities within the County to select the measures best applicable to their jurisdiction.

As of November 2014, the RCPA is in the process of determining appropriate GHG reduction targets and measures to achieve those targets. It is also in the process of conducting a climate vulnerability assessment to determine what climate impacts are most likely in Sonoma County and will then begin developing appropriate adaptation measures.

Brelje & Race will be assisting the RCPA with bringing a local Climate Action Forum to Sonoma County in summer 2015. We’ll be updating our webpage with information as it becomes available.