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Climate Change May Carry Huge Price Tag for California

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Eroding beaches, disappearing snow packs, subdivisions decimated by wildfires — climate change in California could be expensive.

For the first time, the costs of global warming’s projected effects in the nation’s largest state have been quantified. About $2.5 trillion of real estate assets in California are at risk from extreme weather events, sea level rise, and wildfires, with a projected annual price tag of between $300 million and $3.9 billion, according to a new report, “California Climate Risk and Response,” written by ARE’s David Roland-Holst and Fredrich Kahrl, a masters candidate in UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory.

The final cost will depend on how much the Earth warms under various scenarios and whether the world’s nations commit to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our report makes clear that the most expensive thing we can do about climate change is to do nothing,” Roland-Holst says. But he adds, “This is not a doomsday report…If we make the right investments, we can avert much of the projected damage in any scenario.”

California is also moving to adopt comprehensive regulations to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent below today’s level. But that would only put a small dent in the trajectory of climate change, unless dramatic measures are undertaken nationwide and across other continents, according to scientists.

The report covers seven economic sectors and envisions issues such as the collapse of the ski industry, a water-starved hydroelectric system, and an increase in warming-related smog. The research was funded by Next 10, a nonprofit set up by high-tech entrepreneur F. Noel Perry.

“This is a good review of existing studies,” says Anthony Brunello, a California Resources agency official. “It assesses the real, comprehensive statewide impacts for the first time.”

-Margot Roosevelt
Reprinted with permission of the Los Angeles Times.

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