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Climate Change Hitting California Faster Than Scientists Expected

Extreme heat, rising seas, and other impacts of climate change are turning deadly faster than predicted, California officials warn.
September 3, 2018, 11am PDT | Elana Eden
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Naaman Abreu

In recent months, officials have attributed the spate of destructive fires plaguing California to climate change. Now, the state’s latest Climate Assessment confirms that the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on weather, water, and public health are appearing earlier than anticipated.

By 2050, the new assessment warns, rising temperatures due to emissions could cause up to 11,300 more deaths annually. “Heat-health events”—heat waves that are not deadly but still pose health risks to much of the population—are likely to become a regular occurrence in the summer. These health impacts could cost the state up to $50 billion a year.

The ocean, too, is now expected to rise faster and higher than previously believed—up to 9 feet by midcentury. For the first time, the assessment provides localized projections of sea level rise, finding that coastal cities in San Diego and Orange Counties are most at risk.

Water supply and fire danger are among other urgent concerns identified in the report, which also offers guidance on local adaptation planning.

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