Making California Climate-Resilient
Amid a number of new policies in California putting climate adaptation at the front and center, the state is also pursuing an update of the Safeguarding California Action Plan—a comprehensive collection of strategies to mitigate the risks that climate impacts like sea-level rise, drought, flooding, and tree die-off pose to California’s water supply, energy grid, agriculture, and urban infrastructure.
The chair of the state Natural Resources Agency, John Laird, spoke to The Planning Report to delve deeper into this complex assortment of variables.
Among the strategies the agency is exploring is the creation of a regional energy grid, which could help stabilize the supply of renewable energy by allowing Western states to share the resources local to them.
Laird also supports the governor’s contentious plan to build a tunnel system in the Bay Delta. For him, resilience is the lynchpin that can unite the area's embroiled interests under one plan.
I sometimes say that dealing with the issues in the Delta is bit like dealing with peace in the Middle East: People have their basic beliefs, and they don’t cross over. But the issue of resiliency could provide a way to talk about it that everyone can understand.
Some of Laird's expertise is tied to his own brushes with disaster. In 2011, he was chairing a meeting of the state’s Ocean Protection Council when the Tōhoku tsunami hit the California coast. And in 1989, he was a city councilmember when the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed Downtown Santa Cruz.
That hard-won experience has convinced him that the public can, and must, understand how a complex global process like climate change can quickly become close to home.
"There are variables to this," he says. "I think it’s important to develop the science, bring it home to the public, and use examples that people have experienced—like the tsunami—to make sure that people understand the urgency."