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May 8, 2014
Editorial: No denying it: Climate change is here - and now

California_Greenhouse_Gas_Refinery.jpg(May 8 - By the Editorial Board)

Climate change isn't news to Californians.

Central Valley farmers, as it is, are drilling for groundwater and fallowing bone-dry fields. Snowpack in the Sierra is barely at 18 percent of the average. Reservoirs are half full.

Wildfire season, which used to start this month, has been ongoing since January, when Cal Fire alone responded to more than 400 fires, compared to zero for the January before that. From Foster City to Newport Beach, cities are shoring up against rising sea levels.

Still, the latest National Climate Assessment, released this week, makes for urgent reading. It's blunt, and its findings have dire implications, both nationally and for California:

Extreme risks to the supply and quality of the state's water. Worsened drought and plagues of opportunistic insects in agricultural regions. A potential 74 percent increase statewide in wildfire burn areas. Nearly a half-million people at risk from rising sea levels and coastal flooding.

Released by the White House, which has been fought on climate change as on most else by the GOP-controlled House, the report precedes the unveiling of draft federal rules to limit power plant greenhouse gas emissions. President Barack Obama will be driving home the point today at a Bay Area Walmart in a speech on energy efficiency.

Basically, the message will be that climate change is here, and deniers are burning precious daylight.

In California, where serious planning for climate change has gone on for nearly a decade - and where Stanford University this week planted a flag by purging nearly $19 million worth of coal stock from its endowment - that means doubling down on policies we've put in place over the past decade.

That and ignoring the naysayers, who have practiced their own alarmism.

Some industries are still fighting California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard. By last year, though, according to a UC Davis study, the standard had led to the removal of the equivalent of more than a half-million gas guzzlers from the state's freeways.

In the past, critics pooh-poohed the viability of renewable energy such as wind and solar. At last count, those energy sources supplied 22 percent of the electricity in California.

Now the state's cap-and-trade program is ramping up, along with much-needed long-term efforts to reduce driving by building high-speed rail and transit-oriented housing, along with shorter-term steps such as weatherization.

The state and nation need to stay focused and plan for a long haul. The stakes are high, and the deniers - in Congress and elsewhere - don't seem to be going to go away.