Climate Change Action Plan to be revealed in 2009 | SierraSun.com

Climate Change Action Plan to be revealed in 2009

Craig Thomas
Special to the Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun file photoThe clarity of Lake Tahoe will always be a concern, which is why Tahoe Regional Planning Agency representatives say drought is a two-edged sword. One side says it means less water in the lake. The other says there will be less runoff, a large contributor of pollutants that enter the lake.

LAKE TAHOE BASIN “-As California Attorney General and climate change crusader Jerry Brown increases the pressure on local planners to consider future projections for the effects of global warming, more and more government agencies in the Tahoe Basin are integrating climate change into their agendas for the coming years.

“The bottom line of climate change for the Lake Tahoe region,” says Dennis Oliver, community Affairs Officer for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, “means more precipitation of rain instead of snow, and the possibility of less overall precipitation.”

For this reason, the TRPA has begun working on a “Climate Change Action Plan” comprised of initiatives that include everything from energy efficiency to lake water clarity.

Glacial and snowpack loss are of considerable concern worldwide, from the diminishing Himalayas, to the current trickle of the Colorado River that enters Mexico.

Climate change is having immediate and long-lasting impacts on the amounts of alpine ice and snow.

Around Lake Tahoe, the shorter economic season due to less snowfall for the skiers could be a major factor leading to a decline in recent ski revenues.

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Economic stability, however, is not the only thing at stake. Global warming will most likely decrease biodiversity within the Tahoe National forests and other regional parks, increase stress on vegetation and wildlife during the dry summer months, and substantially reduce water from the Sierra Nevada that supplies 60 percent of the water for California and 100 percent of the water for Nevada.

“Nevertheless, the threats of less overall rain, which will definitely impact the rest of the world much harder, might end up having a positive impact on the lake,” Oliver said. “Less rain means less sediment flowing into the lake.”

While the TRPA has only recently begun developing their official Climate Change Action Plan, Oliver added, “We’ve had these irons in the fire a long time.”

With coming food and water shortages, greater fire risk, increased temperatures and unpredictable storms on the horizon, California and Nevada have developed an aggressive stance toward climate change, and are both national leaders in legislation limiting greenhouse gasses.

Recently, California Executive Order S-13-08 directed government agencies to assess the expected effects of global warming by early 2009, and identify the state’s most vulnerable areas of the estimated $2.5 trillion in environmental assets at risk do to climate change.

The California branch of the Environmental Protection Agency webpage outlines “The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,” which requires a variety of actions which include direct regulations, alternative compliance mechanisms, monetary and non-monetary incentives, voluntary actions, and market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade system.

The Global Warming Solutions Act will bring California’s greenhouse gas emissions into near compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, that was ratified by most of the world’s countries, but was never signed by the United States.

In July of this year, Governor Jim Gibbons of Nevada announced a six-sectioned “Climate Change Toolkit” to address greenhouse gases. Nevada’s Climate Change Committee reports a per capita decrease of carbon emitted per capita between 1990 and 2004.

Oliver was positive about the changes being implemented to include LEED certified buildings, solar panels, and green transportation initiatives.

“It’s going to be about building a better transportation system in the Tahoe area,” Oliver said. Oliver also commented that the Climate Change Action Plan contains “a lot of specific initiatives I call ‘two-fors’ that will have both a climate change impact and the added benefit of energy conservation.”

Scientists of the UN sponsored International Panel on Climate Change 2007 report a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature since industrialization, an the added release of greenhouse gasses, predicting a 2.5 to 5 degree increase by 2100. Computer simulation models predict an 80 percent decrease in snowpack by the end of this century. On average, global temperatures are expected to rise approximately 0.2 degree Celsius per decade for the next couple of decades.

Although last year the federal government and states of California and Nevada signed off on a historic agreement that resolved the “Tahoe Water War,” lack of water this summer put stress on the Carson and other area rivers.

Some dams in the Tahoe area were running at only 5 to 15 percent of their top capacity as the result of a succession of low snow winters of only 31to 32 percent of the normal precipitation. In general, the Tahoe area has seen a decrease of approximately 30 in overall snow days since 1910.

Winter usually ends about three weeks before it did as recent as 1968.

Tahoe area resorts are getting higher and higher “green scorecard” evaluations, as competitive programs geared toward lesser emissions and green publicity. Tahoe resorts scored well nationally for its use of biodiesel fuel, wind and solar power projects, resort vehicle fleets, and carpooling initiatives.

Increased erosion ” including rockslides, rockfalls, and avalanches ” is also an anticipated result of climate change for mountain areas, and could magnify Lake Tahoe’s diminishing clarity depth.

“There’s a of focus on the lake. After all, the lake is the reason we’re here,” added Oliver. “Short of going to Bejing and having them retire their coal-fired factories, Tahoe’s goals are simple: the management of building codes and emissions.”