Project raises Tahoe awareness about global warming |

Project raises Tahoe awareness about global warming

Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily Tribune / The Associated Press

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” While California rests on the verge of releasing a strategy to adapt to global climate change, a South Lake Tahoe-based conservation group continues a more than three-year process to encourage groups in the Sierra Nevada to adjust to the global phenomenon.

The Sierra Water and Climate Change Adaptation Pledge is a Sierra Nevada Alliance project and is designed to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on the mountain range, said Alliance Americorps Member Robert Collier.

Among climate change’s potential effects is the loss of at least 25 percent of the Sierra snowpack by 2050, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Such a loss is a concern for both the health of local economies in the Sierra, as well as California’s a water supply, said Marion Gee, Water and Climate Change Program Associate for the Sierra Nevada Alliance.

The pledge is an informal agreement to incorporate seven guiding principles ” including educating others about climate change and prioritizing projects that will succeed under multiple climate change scenarios ” into decision-making processes when possible, Collier said.

Forty-seven organizations throughout the Sierra Nevada ” mostly small conservation groups ” have signed the pledge so far.

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The Tahoe-Baikal Institute, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Area Sierra Club Group and the South Tahoe Public Utility District are among the local organizations that have signed the document.

“What we would like to do with these pledges is show that these organizations are not only committed to looking at (climate change’s) impacts, but take action whenever possible,” Gee said.

“The eventual goal is to draw attention from the state to the Sierra and have more investment in the range,” Collier added.

Work on getting additional signatories to the pledge continues ahead of the anticipated release of the state’s Climate Adaptation Strategy in April.

The strategy will assess the state’s climate change impacts, identify where California is most vulnerable, and recommend climate change adaptation policies, according to an executive order from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Earlier this month, a summary of cost analyses presented to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s climate advisers showed global warming could translate into annual costs and revenue losses throughout the economy of between $2.5 billion and $15 billion by 2050.

Property damage caused by more devastating wildfires and sea level rise could push the costs far higher.

The projected financial toll comes from a compilation of 40 studies commissioned by the governor’s Climate Action Team. The final reports, which will be released by the end of this month, are intended to provide a comprehensive snapshot of global warming’s potential costs to property owners, businesses and state government.

“The numbers indicate that we have a lot at stake,” said Michael Hanemann, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California at Berkeley. “Californians need to pay serious attention to control our greenhouse gas emissions, and they need to start thinking about adaptation.”

If nothing is done globally to reduce emissions, higher temperatures will lead to rising sea levels that will flood property in the San Francisco Bay area, lead to lower crop yields and water shortages, produce more intense wildfires and cause more demand for electricity to cool homes.

Hanemann, who reviewed the studies, said the annual cost estimate of $2.5 billion to $15 billion is conservative.

For example, wildfire property damage estimates do not include money that might be spent by state and local governments to fight the fires.

Wildfire property damage alone could cost Californians between $200 million and $42 billion a year, with the larger figure based on a worse-case scenario, Hanemann said. The state spent about $1 billion fighting wildfires in 2008.

Economic estimates were not available for the small-business sector. The consequences for commercial and recreational fishing as marine ecosystems change, or the ski industry if the snowpack gets smaller, also have not been determined.

The annual costs also could be greater at the end of the century, ranging from $14 billion a year to $45 billion in 2085.

Linda Adams, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said the research shows why the state needs to cut carbon emissions aggressively during the next 40 years.

“It will cost significantly less to combat climate change than it will to maintain a business-as-usual approach,” Adams said.

” Tribune staff writer Adam Jensen and Associated Press writer Samantha Young contributed to this report.