California's Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 3/01/2010 - Updated on: 12/01/2021

Posted by

Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

Sea level rise, erosion, increased temperatures, and changes in precipitation are among the many climate change impacts expected to affect California’s natural and built environment. In 2009, the first California Climate Adaptation Strategy was released and was updated in 2014 and in 2018.


In November 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-13-08, which called for state agencies to develop a statewide climate change strategy. The 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy summarized climate change science, assessed potential risks and vulnerabilities to the state’s resources, and identified possible solutions to increase California’s resilience to global climate change. Led by the California Natural Resources Agency and the Governor’s Climate Action Team, this strategy was compiled by 12 state agencies and, boards, and commissions. Among the contributors were the Departments of Public Health, Parks and Recreation, Fish and Game, Water Resources, Food and Agriculture, Conservation, Forestry and Fire Protection, and Transportation; California Air Resources Board; Ocean Protection Council; Board of Forestry; and the California Energy Commission.


The 2009 strategy provided a set of recommendations to assist state decision-makers in developing policies that promote resilience to climate change. These overall recommendations included:

  1. Creating a Climate Adaptation Advisory Panel to assess the biggest risks and possible solutions;
  2. Altering the state’s water management by reducing water use by 20% by 2020, expanding storage for surface and groundwater, and improving water quality and water supplies;
  3. Reducing new development in areas that may be especially vulnerable to flooding, wildfire, and erosion;
  4. Preparing plans and guidance specific to public health, infrastructure, and habitats in relevant state agencies;
  5. Identifying vulnerable habitats and expanding protected areas or altering land and water management efforts to minimize impacts; and
  6. Investing in expanded climate change research for planning and outreach.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Strategy was first updated in the 2014 Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk report. This report provided progress updates on the 2009 plan’s goals and refined the adaptation strategies and actions for California. California State Bill 1482, enacted in 2015, required that California’s Natural Resources Agency and the Strategic Growth Council oversee state adaptation planning efforts and mandated that the adaptation strategy be updated every three years. In 2018, the next update to the adaptation strategy—Safeguarding California Plan—was released. The plan includes 1,000 ongoing actions and next steps, 76 policy recommendations, 33 examples of adaptation projects, and was developed with input from 38 state agencies. A draft update was released in October 2021 for public comment.

Various state agencies have developed resources and tools to understand and prepare for climate change impacts, such as:

  • Cal-Adapt, a database of tools, data, resources related to how climate change might affect California;
  • ResilientCA Adaptation Clearinghouse, a database of climate adaptation and resilience efforts in California; and
  • Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan, strategic guidance to help the state implement the Agreement for Shared Stewardship of California’s Forest and Rangelands with the U.S. Forest Service.


Gregg, R. M. (2021). California's Climate Change Adaptation Strategy [Case study on a project of California's State Agencies]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: (Last updated October 2021)

Affiliated Organizations

Caltrans manages more than 50,000 miles of California's highway and freeway lanes, provides inter-city rail services, permits more than 400 public-use airports and special-use hospital heliports, and works with local agencies. Caltrans carries out its mission of improving mobility across California with six primary programs: Aeronautics, Highway Transportation, Mass Transportation, Transportation Planning, Administration and the Equipment Service Center.

Climate change is having a profound impact on California water resources, as evidenced by changes in snowpack, sea level, and river flows . These changes are expected to continue in the future and more of our precipitation will likely fall as rain instead of snow. This potential change in weather patterns will exacerbate flood risks and add additional challenges for water supply reliability.

The Council was created pursuant to the California Ocean Protection Act (COPA), which was signed into law in 2004 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The OPC is guided by principles included in COPA:

The California Department of Parks and Recreation manages more than 270 park units, which contain the finest and most diverse collection of natural, cultural, and recreational resources to be found within California. These treasures are as diverse as California: From the last stands of primeval redwood forests to vast expanses of fragile desert; from the lofty Sierra Nevada to the broad sandy beaches of our southern coast; and from the opulence of Hearst Castle to the vestiges of colonial Russia.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains native fish, wildlife, plant species and natural communities for their intrinsic and ecological value and for their use and enjoyment by th public. This includes habitat protection and maintenance in a sufficient amount and quality to ensure the survival of all species and natural communities. The department is also responsible for the diversified use of fish and wildlife including recreational, commercial, scientific and educational uses.

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