The Nation and the World

The West Coast’s Climate Change Crisis

In the past 20 years, climate change has become more evident on the West Coast. While the South East has seen the effects of climate change for years as sea levels have risen and encroached further on Southern Florida’s coastal cities, climate change effects on the West Coast have not been as evident until now. Climate change on the West Coast is responsible for increasing temperatures, wildfire occurrence, sea level rise, flooding, drought, decreasing agricultural prosperity and poor air quality particularly in California. 

According to CNBC President Joe Biden stated in October of 2020 during an interview  with the podcast Pod Save America that climate change is the “number one issue facing humanity”

Summers have become increasingly grueling on the West Coast with temperatures rising at rates higher than the national average. Reported by the Washington Post, the West Coast average temperature has risen 2.7ºF since the 1971-2000 West Coast average was recorded. The rising temperature has had a variety of effects on the region; it has led to strain on the electric grid and decrease in air quality creating smog which traps hot air and can lead to respiratory illnesses. 

According to the California Department of Justice, in a July heat wave in 2006, more than 140 people died from heat related injuries. Besides rising temperatures affecting the health of West Coast citizens, they have had a negative impact on the natural ecosystems as well. Native plants are being pushed out as temperatures become too hot for them to grow and land is drying out. Fire season is lasting longer and is growing more intense than in past decades and the Sierra Snowpack which supplies water to 30% of California’s population is overwhelming water storage facilities as it melts earlier and at a faster rate. 

According to Goervener Newsoms Office in response to the noticeable effects the Governor signed a measure in September 2022 that addresses climate change’s effects on the state. Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) said that “Our state has been facing extreme temperatures, putting our communities, especially our most vulnerable neighbors, at risk. We’re also continuing to deal with an historic drought and the ongoing threat of wildfires. The challenges of climate change are here.”

Another side effect of Climate change is rising sea levels. NASA released that globally, sea levels have risen 3.3 millimeters since 1992. During the 1990s-2000s sea levels on the West Coast fell 1 millimeter, but since 2010 they have steadily increased, rising at 10 millimeters per year over the past 5 years. The California Department of Justice believes that with 85% of Californians working in coastal counties, this puts the state in an extremely vulnerable position. The threat of rising sea levels could threaten 100 billions dollars worth of infrastructure and property in California and the West Coast economy. As the West Coast supports about 19% of the national GDP.  

While climate change is not irreversible, it can be slowed. As reported by NASA, if we stopped emitting greenhouse gasses today temperatures and other effects would plateau in the next decade. This would prevent more drastic side effects and would give time for the environment to adapt.

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