Indicators of Climate Change in California


The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment of the California Environmental Protection Agency has released its newest report entitled, Indicators of Climate Change in California. The report examines the many facets of climate change in California, including the causes of climate change, the rate of change over time, and the effects that the phenomenon has on the environment and people of California.

The report’s analysis relies on “indicators” of climate change, which are described as “measurements that convey scientifically based information on the status of, and trends in, environmental conditions.” Altogether the report examines 36 indicators specific to California, which includes greenhouse gas emissions, annual air temperature, sea level rise, migratory bird arrival, mosquito-borne diseases, and forest vegetation patterns.

Using these indicators, researchers are able to determine the specific effects of climate change on the environment. A few key findings include:

• An increase in the state’s high, low and average temperatures
• A steady increase in the number of acres burned by wildfires
• Earlier and decreased water runoff, which could result in a reduction of water supply
• Physical and biological changes in the ocean
• Species migration/habitat changes due to warmer climates

“One of the report’s more hopeful findings is that California’s industries are becoming more energy efficient, with emissions of greenhouse gases declining per $1,000 of economic output, a sign that the state’s efforts to reduce emissions are having positive effects. Yet the state’s overall emissions of heat-trapping gases increased between 1990 and 2011, and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane continue to rise.”

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