LAO Publishes Series of Reports on Climate Change Impacts on California

This week, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) issued a series of six reports detailing impacts of climate change on various sectors and what key corresponding policy and fiscal issues the Legislature will face in the coming years. According to the LAO, the reports are intended as framing documents to help the Legislature adopt a “climate lens” across multiple subject areas.

Notably, the LAO indicates California already is experiencing significant impacts of climate change, including its hottest average summer temperatures, its second largest wildfire, and its third driest year on record. The LAO notes that scientists anticipate these types of extreme events and weather to becoming increasingly prevalent in the coming years as the climate continues to change. While climate change is often thought of as an “environmental” issue, the LAO asserts that while a changing climate does impact the environment, its impacts are significantly more widespread.

According to the LAO, climate stressors present California with five key climate hazards: 1) extreme heat events; 2) more severe wildfires; 3) more frequent and intense droughts; 4) flooding due to extreme precipitation events; and 5) coastal flooding and erosion resulting from sea-level rise. These hazards have major impacts on public health and safety, as well as property and infrastructure. As such, per the LAO, climate change affects all of California’s residents, employers, and workers, along with the state’s economy, budget, health care systems, transportation and water infrastructure, agricultural operations, housing market, and educational services.

The LAO’s series of six reports grew out of an initial project conducted for the Speaker of the California Assembly. Given the complexity of the issues, the reports do not contain explicit recommendations or a specific path forward; instead, the reports are intended to frame the issue of climate change across various subject areas. Five reports discuss how climate change will impact specific sectors, and an additional reports highlights issues and themes that cut across all policy areas. Each report contains: 1) a summary of climate hazards affecting California; 2) how those hazards impact the specific sector; 3) a discussion of pertinent existing state-level efforts that are underway; and 4) resulting key relevant issues and questions facing the Legislature.

The six-report series includes:

  • Cross-Cutting Issues: Given the magnitude of climate change impacts already being experienced by California, the LAO indicates the Legislature will confront persistent questions about how the state should respond, including the need for coordination, additional information, prioritization of efforts, state-level technical and financial assistance, and a focus on the most vulnerable residents. Report available here.
  • Health: Climate change has a wide variety of direct and indirect health impacts on residents, with rising temperatures, extreme heat events, and wildfire smoke posing particular threats. Certain populations, namely lower-income, older, medically compromised individuals, and outdoor workers, will disproportionately bear the adverse health burdens of climate change. Report available here.
  • Housing: The risks posed by climate change will need to be considered as a more significant factor when building new housing and modifying existing homes and communities to ensure protection against climate-driven hazards. Encouraging community-level mitigations, keeping the insurance market healthy, and mitigating disproportionate risks faced by low-income residents are areas where the Legislature could consider actions. The state will also want to ensure that impacts on housing supply and affordability are considered as part of any actions, per the LAO. Report available here.
  • K-12 Education: More extreme weather and climate-driven events will result in more frequent emergencies and school closures, negatively impacting student learning, school facilities, and school district budgets. The Legislature will want to consider how the state can support schools in preparing for and responding to more frequent emergencies and public health issues. Report available here.
  • Transportation: Some existing transportation infrastructure will need to be modified or relocated to remain useable under a changing climate, and planning, construction, and maintenance will increasingly need to account for the effects of climate change to maintain the current longevity of transportation infrastructure. Report available here.
  • Workers and Employers: Changing conditions, such as more days of extreme heat and widespread wildfire smoke, increasing the likelihood of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities for exposed workers, particularly those who work outdoors or indoors without adequate air conditioning and ventilation. Certain workers are also likely to face greater work instability in the short-term due to extreme weather events and in the long-term as affected industries shift operations or locations in response to climate change impacts.

The series of LAO reports on climate change are accessible here.