Climate change calls for two types of responses: preparing for its impacts, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sonoma Ecology Center has focused primarily on preparedness, using science and outreach to better understand climate hazards and to spur action.
To get this done, Sonoma Ecology Center cofounded the North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative (NBCAI) in 2009. NBCAI is a leader in Sonoma County on preparing our region for the inescapable effects of climate change.
Sonoma Valley’s chief climate hazards are drought, flood, extreme heat, and wildfire, which is projected to increase dramatically over the next 50 years. Meanwhile, the Valley is already seeing groundwater decline unlike anywhere else in the North Bay.
Sonoma Ecology Center has worked to inform the public on local climate hazards in the following ways:
- A detailed report by NBCAI prepared for the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority, “Climate Ready Sonoma County: Climate Hazards and Vulnerabilities” (pdf)
- Reporting scientifically on risks: ca.gov/data-and-reports/climate-risks/
- Promoting interactive online tools to help us better understand climate risks (see below for full list)
- Delivering the message directly through presentations and videos, such as in these videos by KRCB: krcb.org/video/ilhchchetpra130 and www.krcb.org/video/ilhchcheneia133
- Organizing public forums, such as this 2015 all-day forum held at Sonoma State University: sonomacountyadaptation.org/climate/presentations
Although Sonoma Valley has always had the periodic problems of drought, flood, extreme heat and wildfire, climate change is making them worse. However, with concerted action by the community, we can reduce the harm they will cause.
Actions to Take
What can Sonoma Valley’s residents and businesses do to tackle these challenges? A good climate response involves two steps: climate preparedness, i.e. making preparations for a changing climate, and doing what we can to reduce emissions and improve our efficiency.
Some straightforward actions that all residents can take are:
- Walk, bike, travel by mass transit or use an electric vehicle
- Live close to your work, school, stores and other basic necessities
- Buy and eat locally
- Use less water
- Vote with climate change policies in mind
For certain Sonoma Valley residents, we’ve developed more specific actions that take into account where you live, how you get your water, your role in the community and other factors:
- If you use a water well, join this well monitoring network so we can better understand how our complex groundwater basin works: http://www.scwa.ca.gov/files/docs/projects/svgw/SonomaValleyGroundwaterFactSheet09.pdf
- If you own or live on a streamside property, maintain wider buffers alongside streams and wetlands in order to make room for future floods
- If you own or live on a property with streams, wells or that is located in a flood-prone area, start or join one of our Neighborhood Water Teams (NeWTs) so that you and your neighbors can collaborate on water conservation
- If you own or live on a property with forests in Sonoma Valley, use thinning and controlled burns to reduce flammability and increase biodiversity
- If you’re a business owner, position your business to protect employees and facilities from extreme events, create a resilient low-emissions supply chain, and try to provide products and services that will help the community prepare and adapt
- If you work in government, foster climate resilience by coordinating incentives and funding, collaborating with other agencies, subsidizing sustainable agriculture, creating wise land management plans and development codes, quantifying the many benefits of resilience investments, protecting and expanding our natural water systems, and supporting the population’s health, housing and financial security
- If you’re a farmer, increase multiple-crop operations, use carbon-sequestering techniques and tools (such as biochar), support a more diverse agricultural sector, and conserve and reuse water at all scales
- If you are involved with a school, nonprofit, church group, club or similar organization, or if you’re just someone who likes to stay connected with your neighbors, keep tabs on the community’s climate change preparedness and remain active and engaged locally – for example, by starting or joining one of our Neighborhood Water Teams (NeWTs)
For more on specific actions that individuals and businesses can take, see this brochure or the Roadmap for Climate Resilience in Sonoma County, both developed by NBCAI. Also see these helpful NBCAI fact sheets.
In all cases, an important course of action for residents and businesses involves good groundwater management. For more on groundwater management in Sonoma County, visit the county’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act page or Sonoma County Water Agency’s Groundwater Management Program page.
Finally, remain politically involved in ways particular to your community. For example, Sonoma County residents should tell their city leaders or supervisor to adopt Climate Action 2020 or to at least implement that plan’s emissions measures. CA2020 already has been adopted by the City of Sonoma – but we should all demand that other cities, and the county, follow suit.
Here are some interactive online tools for understanding climate hazards:
- PREP: Sonoma County’s Climate Resilience Dashboard
- The Climate Commons: Extensive searchable library of climate adaptation resources, including articles, watershed analyses, BCM variables (available as GIS downloads), and a comparison of many more climate tools
- Climate Ready North Bay: Customized analyses based on climate-related watershed management questions from North Bay users
- Conservation Lands Network Explorer: Creates maps using different climate futures and time periods to track BCM variables along with vegetation, protected land status and conservation value
- SF Bay Area Watershed Analyst: Graphs, tables and seasonal water balance diagrams for any Bay Area watershed using different climate futures
- CalWeedMapper: Interactive mapping and reports on invasive plant trends based on climate suitability and proximity to infestations
- Vegetation modeling: Bar graphs showing changes in vegetation types using different climate futures
- North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative
- Sonoma County Climate Resilience Team
- Regional Climate Protection Authority