The Future is Now: An Update on Climate Change Science Impacts and Response Options for California

Susan Moser, Sarah Pittiglio, Wendy Chou, Dan Cayan
Created: 4/30/2009 -


This report presents an interim summary of the latest in climate change science and outlines recommended response options for decision makers in California. This document contains four key messages:

  1. Observed changes in temperature, sea level, precipitation regime, fire frequency, and agricultural and ecological systems reveal that California is already experiencing the measurable effects of climate change.
  2. Scientific confidence in attributing climate change to human activities has increased since the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), which was recently made available by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  3. New scientific studies suggest that the climatic and hydrologic changes already experienced in California are due to human activity.
  4. Unmitigated climate change will lead to grave consequences for California’s economy and ecosystems. Furthermore, it appears that even a scenario that drastically curtails emissions of greenhouse gases may still lead to undesirable trends in warming and sea‐level rise.

A rapid two‐pronged response to climate that which encompasses both mitigation and adaptation has the potential to promote innovative invesment by businesses and protect environmental quality while increasing community preparedness and capacity to cope with change. Conversely, a path of inaction exposes a community’s vulnerability to climate variability and is ultimately costly.

Published On


The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. Created by the Legislature in 1974 and located in Sacramento, the Commission responsibilities include:


State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Disaster Risk Management
Land Use Planning
Water Resources
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Reduce local climate or related change
Capacity Building
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Conduct vulnerability assessments and studies
Conduct scenario planning exercise
Governance and Policy
Develop / implement adaptive management strategies
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Public health risks
Public safety threats
Sea level rise
Species of concern
Water temperature