Developing Adaptation Strategies for San Luis Obispo County: Preliminary Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Social Systems
San Luis Obispo faces a variety of risks from climate change, including extreme heat, a generally drier climate, increases in extreme weather events, and sea-level rise. Important vulnerabilities are apparent for water supplies, in agriculture (especially for wine and cattle ranchers) and related tourism, for fishing, coastal tourism, coastal development and infrastructure, and for community services. Certain county populations may face disproportionate risks including the elderly and outdoor workers from extreme heat, people living in coastal and inland floodplains, those living at the wildland-urban interface, the student population, institutionalized individuals (especially the state hospital), and those members of the community that tend to be somewhat disenfranchised from public decision-making, such as non-English speaking individuals and those who can’t afford to take off from work to attend public meetings. The county is wise to begin planning and building its adaptive capacity at this time before climate change impacts become more severe, and before there may be greater competition for state and federal financial support for adaptation planning and implementation.