By Bruce Lieberman San Diego Union-Tribune August 12, 2006

Increasing temperatures will transform California, threatening some of its most valuable resources in coming decades.

That's the primary message of a new state publication that summarizes 17 scientific studies examining how global warming is expected to play out in California.

³The potential impacts of global warming are unmistakable, adding more days of deadly heat, more intense and frequent wildfires, shorter supplies of drinking water and serious public-health risks,² Linda Adams, the state's secretary for environmental protection, said yesterday during a news conference at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

By publishing the report, titled ³Our Changing Climate: Assessing the Risks to California , state officials hope to engage citizens who haven't followed the steady stream of reports ordered last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he called for statewide reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases.

Worldwide, scientists agree that Earth's atmosphere and oceans are warming and that human use of fossil fuels for energy is driving the trend. Levels of carbon dioxide -- a byproduct of burning gas, oil and coal -- are now higher than they've been for at least 650,000 years, scientists have reported.

One global change that will affect California's coastline is rising sea levels. Over the 20th century, sea levels rose about 7 inches due to warming. Depending on how much more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere during the next several decades, sea levels could rise as much as 28 inches more.

Sea levels that high could devastate San Diego County's coastline, particularly during high tides and El Niño storms.

Warming in California also is melting mountain snow -- the state's primary source of drinking water -- earlier in the spring. That means less snow melt will be available later in the year, during the state's hot, dry summer and fall seasons.

Other results of global warming could be more frequent and intense heat waves, as well as bigger and longer-lasting wildfires.

³Climate change is an issue we all need to be educated about,² said Mike Chrisman, California's secretary for resources. ³We've got to do a better job of educating. It's a long-term effort, (and) we've got to get people talking about it.²

Dan Cayan, a climate scientist at Scripps, said the general public is beginning to recognize the specter of rising temperatures.

Last month's heat wave across the nation, Europe's deadly heat wave of 2003, melting glaciers in Greenland and other events have contributed to a growing realization that a warming climate is changing the globe.

³I think people have, in a sense, a mental scoreboard, and they're seeing these factors accumulate,² Cayan said. ³I really believe that this is becoming an issue that is starting to get taken more seriously.²

The Scripps news conference followed one held in Riverside, where state officials highlighted the connection between warming temperatures and the risk of wildfires in California.

More meetings around the state are planned.

To see the report online, go to

Informant: NHNE


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