Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in California Agriculture

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Jackson, Louise, Haden, Van R., Wheeler, Stephen M., Hollander, Allan D., Perlman, Josh, O'Geen, Toby, Mehta, Vishal K., Clark, Victoria, Williams, John

To build public support for adapting to and mitigating climate change, it will be necessary to
develop greater awareness of a broad set of biophysical and socioeconomic factors that
influence agricultural vulnerability and resilience. First, the study developed a spatially explicit
agricultural vulnerability index for California derived from 22 climate, crop, land use, and
socioeconomic variables. Results of the agricultural vulnerability index suggest that the
Sacramento‐San Joaquin Delta, the Salinas Valley, the corridor between Merced and Fresno, and
the Imperial Valley merit special consideration due to their high agricultural vulnerability. The
underlying factors contributing to vulnerability and resilience differ among these regions,
indicating that future studies and responses could benefit from adopting a contextualized
“place based” approach. As an example of this approach, the research team summarized the
findings from a recent study on climate change adaptation in Yolo County. The Yolo County
study consists of: (1) an econometric analysis of crop acreages under future climate change
projections; (2) a hydrologic model of the Cache Creek watershed that simulates the impact of
future climate and crop acreage projections on local water supplies; (3) a countywide inventory
of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and how it might be used to inform local
Climate Action Plans; (4) a survey of farmers’ views on climate change, its impacts and what
adaptation and mitigation strategies they might be inclined to adopt; and (5) an urban growth
model that evaluates various future development scenarios and the impact on Yolo County
farmland and GHG emissions. Since farmland throughout the state is vulnerable to
urbanization, the study also used urban growth projections for 2050 to examine the possible
impacts on statewide agricultural production, land use patterns, and soils. Lastly, the study
examined two on‐farm case studies (Fetzer/Bonterra Vineyards and Dixon Ridge Farms) that
highlight the possible benefits of innovative agricultural practices (for example, vineyard
carbon storage and renewable energy production from crop residues) that link adaptation and


Jackson, L., V. R. Haden, S. M. Wheeler, A. D. Hollander, J. Perlman, T. O’Geen, V. K. Mehta, V. Clark, and J. Williams. 2012. Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in California Agriculture. California Energy Commission, Sacramento CA. Retrieved from