Climate Change: Mitigation is Global, but Adaptation is Local
California and the Bay Area are global leaders in taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These efforts must be intensified and scaled up if the worst climate scenarios are to be avoided.
We know that climate change is already underway, and we have seen the preview of impacts from sea level rise and the threat it poses to bayside communities and infrastructure. While we can't predict how fast or far the waters will rise, it is certain that the Bayshore will be transformed in the decades to come. The choices we make in the decade ahead will have a profound impact, for better or worse, on how livable the Bay Area will be for the next generation.
A Bay Area Vision
How should we define success in adaptation? Sea level rise, regardless of its pace, will not stop at century’s end. Successful adaptation will add several decades to the life of the existing bayside infrastructure and habitats, and provide the breathing space to develop a more durable strategy. In the near term, this means accelerating action and scaling up adaptation projects that can fulfill this potential for the mid-term. The only way this can be accomplished is to involve local interests who are most affected, from the outset to project completion, and beyond. Successful projects will also require collaboration with multiple regulatory agencies, climbing a steep learning curve to manage complexity.
Image: © Nate Kauffman, LEAP
Californians know that water is their most precious resource. That’s why they care passionately about supply reliability, water rates, and the environmental impacts from the human uses of water. More than ever before, public water agencies are called to engage, educate, and listen to their stakeholders. Start by building trust with the public, with accurate and complete information and an open door to hear their concerns. Even with complex issues, a productive dialogue can narrow the scope of disagreement to a more manageable scale. After the final decision, differences may linger but relationships built on respect deliver long-term dividends.
More than ever before, Bay Area water and wastewater agencies are now committing to regional collaboration as a way to leverage public resources with joint projects to optimize public benefits. Building and nurturing these partnerships is a key to meeting sustainability challenges in the coming decades.