The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Sonoma County Adaption Forum - Regional Climate Protection Authority


Sonoma County Adaption Forum
Regional Climate Protection Authority

April 8, 2015

Climate Ready Sonoma County: Climate Hazards and Vulnerabilities

New report identifies Sonoma County’s risks and impacts due to climate change

The Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority, a national leader in combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through local government collaboration, released a report today highlighting the impacts climate change will have on our community.

The report – Climate Ready Sonoma County: Climate Hazards and Vulnerabilities – illustrates that despite widespread efforts to curb emissions, some level of effects as a result of a changing climate is inevitable. In fact many changes in climate, such as warmer temperatures, less precipitation, and sea level rise are already evident and have implications for the future of Sonoma County.

The report, commissioned by the RCPA and prepared by the North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative looks at the risks we face as a region due to climate change, and identifies threats for which we need to prepare. It explores the potential impacts of climate change on various sectors, including people and social systems, built infrastructure, and natural and working lands by examining trends in weather patterns, sea level rise, and flood plains.

“The hazards identified in this report are not new,” said RCPA Director and Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin. “We have experience responding to severe storms, floods, and droughts. However the science is clear that the intensity, severity and frequency of these events are changing. We must continue to invest in the resilience of our communities, and at the same time reducing carbon emissions is essential.”

Carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for transportation and building energy are the primary drivers of climate change in the United States. Reducing carbon emissions remains a crucial component of preparing for the impacts of climate change. In addition, local governments are exploring how best to prepare for the impacts of climate change and the Hazards and Vulnerabilities Report helps guide that effort.

The report looks at four climate futures under high emissions scenarios and low emissions scenarios. It identifies six primary climate change hazards in Sonoma County:

Hotter, drier weather with longer summers

1. More increased heat events
2. Longer and more frequent droughts
3. Greater frequency and intensity of wildfires
4. Fewer nights that freeze

More variable Rain

5. Bigger, more variable floods

Sea Level Rise

6. Higher seal level and storm surge

“Scientists predict that weather patterns of the future will differ significantly from those experienced over the past century.” said Petaluma Council Member and RCPA Director Kathy Miller. “Looking at historic data to predict future conditions may no longer be the only source of reliable data for policy planning and decision making.”

The report is clear that local climate change is already happening, and causing hotter, drier weather with longer summers, more variable rain, and rising sea level and storm surge. These impacts create many cascading hazards to people, infrastructure, wildlife, and natural and working lands. Understanding and evaluating the ways in which each climate-change hazard may impact specific community resources is an essential first step in preparing for change..

Fortunately, there are already many agencies throughout Sonoma County working on solutions. The document lists a number of efforts that are underway by the Sonoma County Water Agency, the County of Sonoma, Regional Parks, emergency services departments, and others. The RCPA staff will build on existing efforts to reduce risks from climate change impacts through collaborative partnerships, education and continuing to pursue emissions reduction efforts through the Climate Action 2020 plan.

Public involvement

As a follow up to the report, the RCPA has worked with a consortium of partners to plan the first ever Sonoma County Adaptation Forum, to be held April 8th at Sonoma State University:

The event is intended to introduce science on the local impacts of climate change and bring together individuals, organizations, and businesses responsible for ensuring Sonoma County remains vibrant and resilient long into the future. Speakers and panelists will share best practices for planning around climate change, and implementing projects to manage climate risks.

“Sonoma County is on the cutting edge of communities nationwide looking at climate change,” said Rohnert Park City Councilman Jake Mackenzie. Mr. Mackenzie is also Chair of the Local Government Commission, and currently a Director of RCPA. “This forum is an opportunity to take another leadership role in determining how we can prepare for the change that we know is coming.”

The Hazards and Vulnerabilities Report can be found here:

The Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA) was created in 2009 by all 9 cities and the County of Sonoma to coordinate countywide efforts to implement and advocate a broad range of programs to deal with climate change. Most work to date by the RCPA has focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Regional Climate Adaptation Forum

Sonoma County to Host the Nation’s First-Ever Regional Climate Adaptation Forum

Santa Rosa, CA – The North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative announces the Sonoma County Adaptation Forum to be held April 8, 2015 at the Sonoma State University Student Center in Rohnert Park, CA. (Details below)

This public forum will bring together individuals from across a wide spectrum of sectors and disciplines who are working to ensure that Sonoma County remains vibrant and resilient in a changing climate. More than 200 attendees will explore new and innovative approaches for adapting to climate change.

“We know that the future is likely to bring more droughts, floods and fires,” said Susan Gorin, Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “The forum will bring together policymakers across the county to discuss how we can make our community resilient and safer in light of these challenges.”

This event will be the first-ever county-level climate adaptation forum, and comes on the heels of the recent White House Climate Action Champion award given to Sonoma County’s Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA), lauded as the nation’s “first local government agency created specifically to address climate change.” As one of only 16 communities nationwide to receive this award, Sonoma County is now eligible for additional federal dollars and other resources to bolster local programs and policies. More about this award available here:

“Sonoma County is on the cutting edge of communities nationwide looking at climate change,” said Rohnert Park City Councilman Jake Mackenzie. Mr. Mackenzie is also Chair of the Local Government Commission, and Past Chair and currently a Director of RCPA. “This forum is an opportunity to take another proactive step in determining how we can prepare for the change that we know is coming.”

Speakers and presenters will include nationally acclaimed research scientists such as Dr. Marty Ralph, Director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Dr. Julie Kalansky, Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The forum will also feature local leaders who are actively researching effects of climate change in the aspects of Sonoma County which are anticipated to be most highly impacted in the coming years, including Dr. Lisa Micheli, Executive Director of Pepperwood, co-founder of NBCAI and co-founder of Terrestrial Biodiversity and Climate Change Collaboration (TBC3), and Jay Jasperse, Chief Engineer and Director of Groundwater Management, of the Sonoma County Water Agency.

Sonoma County’s local business community and city and county leaders will be interested in a session discussing how to plan and coordinate a response to climate change impacts on our built environment, public health and safety, and critical infrastructure.

“Businesses need to proactively consider how climate change could affect their bottom line,” said Justin Witt, with Brelje & Race Engineers, and a panel moderator. “Successful adaptation means preparing for both threats and opportunities. Planning is a long road and we need to get started now.”

Additional conference activities include networking opportunities, provocative 5-minute “Ignite!” presentations, and a closing key-note presentation by Dr. Glenda Humiston, appointed by President Obama to serve as the California State Director at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Development.

More information about the event agenda can be found here:

The Sonoma County Adaptation Forum is presented by an alliance of non-profits, agencies, and businesses working together to increase awareness of climate impacts to Sonoma County and strategies for climate resilience.

Taking the lead on this event is the North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative (NBCAI), a coalition of natural resource managers, policy makers and scientists who are committed to working together to create positive solutions to the problem of climate adaptation for the ecosystems and watersheds of Sonoma County. NBCAI members are experts and conservation leaders drawn from natural resource science and management organizations throughout the region.

The goal of NBCAI is to foster an open conversation between technical experts, land managers and policymakers in support of effective local scale climate adaptation strategies that preserve natural resources, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. Since climate adaptation is ultimately a regional issue, NBCAI aims to pilot an approach in Sonoma County that can be extended throughout the North Bay as a whole. Community Foundation Sonoma County has been a true visionary to support the ground-breaking work of NBCAI. We appreciate their support and applaud their role in investing in the promise of Sonoma County.

Other co-organizers and sponsors include: RCPA, Sonoma County Water Agency, Sustainable SSU at Sonoma State University, County of Sonoma Energy & Sustainability Division, County of Sonoma Public Health Division, Brelje & Race Consulting Engineers, Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy, Local Government Commission, and Sustainable North Bay.

The Sonoma County Adaptation Forum is being held at the Sonoma State University Student Center in Rohnert Park, CA. Sonoma State University (SSU) is the perfect partner for this event given their well-established focus on sustainability, which they recognize as among the most critical global and ethical challenges of our time. At SSU, students, faculty, staff and administrators learn and work in an environment that focuses on the environmental, economic and cultural implications of sustainability to help realize a sustainable, equitable and prosperous planet.

Registration for the Adaptation Forum opens at 8:00 am, and includes morning coffee, lunch, and a closing reception. This event is expected to sell out, and we encourage advance registration. You can register online at:

What is Adaptation?

Every day, more people wake up to the realization of how severely the changing climate is affecting, and will affect, our lives, our economy, our health, and our environment. The prospect of unprecedented droughts, floods, crop failures, wildfires, and public health emergencies caused by a rapidly changing climate is frightening. The solution must include urgent steps to burn much less fossil fuel. But we must also prepare our communities for the coming crises. That preparation is called climate adaptation. It turns out that getting prepared for climate change brings a host of other benefits that help our community, the natural world, and our society thrive.

The leading American assessment of climate impacts emphasizes the need to act. “Early action provides the largest health benefits. As threats increase, our ability to adapt to future changes maybe limited… It is prudent to invest in creating the strongest climate health preparedness programs possible.” – National Climate Assessment, 2014