On Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released the findings from its climate change impacts study on California’s San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta system, Flash Forward 100 Years: Climate Change Scenarios in California’s Bay-Delta.
I mention the report because it is a powerful reminder that while climate change will likely be devastating for communities in vulnerable developing countries like Bangladesh and the Maldives, developed countries like the United States also have much to worry about if we do not begin planning for climate change. According to the USGS study, areas like the Suisun Bay (pictured above) are vulnerable to changes in the climate, with implications for the surrounding communities: “water-resource planners will need to develop adaptation strategies to address potentially longer dry seasons, diminishing snow packs and earlier snowmelt leaving less water for runoff in the summer. The study also describes risk from flooding as sea-level rise accelerates and extreme water levels become increasingly common. Increased intensity and frequency of winter flooding could also occur as a result of earlier snowmelt and a shift from snow to rain.”
California’s San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is tremendously important to the California economy. The impacts of climate change that are likely to manifest there could prove disastrous. “The Delta provides drinking water to 25 million people and irrigation water to farmland producing crops valued at $36 billion per year,” according to the USGS. “Intensive efforts are underway among the USGS, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and the State of California to address what will be increasingly difficult decisions regarding allocations of water for human consumption and biological needs.”
Photo: Suisun Bay, a shallow tidal estuary that forms the entrance to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, as seen during sunrise. Courtesy of Francis Parchaso and the USGS.