California’s Future: Climate Change

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Escriva-Bou, Alvar, Brian Gray, Ellen Hanak, and Jeffrey Mount
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Global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are raising air and water temperatures as well as sea levels, with serious consequences for California. The state has recently experienced record-high temperatures, and warming is expected to continue over the century. The sea level is predicted to rise 12 to 55 inches by 2100 in California’s most populated coastal regions, and the frequency of extreme events such as droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and floods is expected to increase. Higher temperatures result in more precipitation falling as rain (and less as snow), which will increase both the frequency and magnitude of flooding and diminish water reserves in the Sierra snowpack. Even if all GHG emissions ceased today, some of these changes would be unavoidable because the climate system changes slowly.

In the face of these threats, California has emerged as a leader in global efforts to reduce GHG emissions. In 2006, California enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires the state to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. In 2016, the enactment of Senate Bill (SB) 32 extended this commitment by raising the emission reduction target to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. And an executive order calls for GHG emissions to be reduced to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The July 2017 PPIC Statewide Survey found that two in three Californians favor the state’s emission reduction goals.

Reductions of this magnitude are needed on a global scale to stabilize the earth’s climate. California faces a twofold policy challenge: finding cost-effective ways to reduce GHG emissions and preparing for the climate changes that are expected even if emissions are reduced.


Escriva-Bou, Alvar, Brian Gray, Ellen Hanak, and Jeffrey Mount. 2018. “California’s Future: Climate Change.” Public Policy Institute of California.