Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Report offers strategies for San Francisco Bay to adapt

Kelly Zito in the San Francisco Chronicle: The Bay Area must start prepping for the whens, not the ifs, of climate change - like building cooling centers for use during heat waves, propping up homes on stilts in flood-prone areas and even abandoning roadways vulnerable to sea-level rise, according to an influential urban policy organization.

In a dramatic new tack that emphasizes adaptation over prevention, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association is recommending in a report to be released today that officials in the nine-county region begin making concrete plans for the economic, environmental and public health impacts of increasing temperatures, more volatile weather, scarcer freshwater, rising seas and poorer air quality over the next 100 years.

…Today's 21-page report, titled "Climate Change Hits Home," states that reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains crucial. But with something like 45 billion tons of carbon dioxide still spewing into the global atmosphere each year, even the worst-case forecasts for changing climate patterns look optimistic. Against that backdrop, the planning group outlined 30 different strategies for dealing with impacts on public health, transportation, ecosystems, energy, water and sea-level rise in the Bay Area.

Some of the tactics are relatively uncomplicated - like setting up fans and misters at community centers during hot spells or installing light-colored concrete in public structures rather than heat-absorbing black. But others pose tricky logistical, financial and political questions. The problems associated with sea-level rise along San Francisco Bay's 1,000 miles of shoreline are among the thorniest.

Protecting coast-side homes, businesses, critical infrastructure and natural resources will clearly warrant multibillion-dollar investments in levees, coastal armoring or elaborate retrofitting with stilts or other equipment, Metcalf said. But in certain instances, it may be more cost-effective to simply cede man-made structures to the elements. One example mentioned is Highway 37, a 21-mile thoroughfare perched at the northern edge of San Pablo Bay. If sea levels do indeed rise by the projected 55-inch maximum over the next 90 years, transit authorities might consider abandoning the route and shifting traffic to Highway 121 to the north, the paper argued….

Highway 37 at sunset, very low to the water, shot by Aztecrosales, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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