Fresno State researchers identify regional climate challenges

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Fresno State researchers identify regional climate challenges

A climate-change study by California State University, Fresno researchers, commissioned by the city of Fresno, forecasts significant challenges ahead to water, air quality, agriculture and landscapes, transportation, energy use, buildings and settlements in the central San Joaquin Valley.

The 106-page “Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Climate Change in Fresno, California” was presented Tuesday, Jan. 27, to the Fresno City Council by Joseph Oldham, Fresno’s interim sustainability manager. Oldham also chairs the city’s sustainability program, Fresno Green, in which Fresno State is a partner.

No action is requested of the council at this time, Oldham said, but he hopes the conclusions and recommendations will guide Fresno’s sustainability efforts.

The primary purpose of this study was to review voluminous published literature on climate change; identify direct and indirect effects of primary relevance to the greater Fresno area; and recommend strategies for adapting to and/or mitigating these effects.

Projections highlighted include rising temperatures, more extreme-heat days, 15-20 percent variation in rainfall, fewer but more intense storms and higher-elevation snows.

The report was written by professors Dr. Peter Van de Water (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences) and Dr. Vivien Yupeng Luo (Construction Management Program in the Lyles College of Engineering); Dr. Fraka Harmsen, associate dean of the College of Science and Mathematics; and Dr. Donald Hunsaker, director of Fresno State’s new Institute of Climate Change, Oceans and Atmosphere.

The climate-change projections identified from the published literature could have important implications for Fresno in many areas. For example, “Early snowmelt and reduced storms will result in longer dry periods,” disrupt traditional irrigation patterns, make it more difficult to store runoff and cause vegetation changes that could adversely affect tourism, thereby further straining the local economy.

The report suggests a number of ways in which the greater Fresno community could adapt to or mitigate the effects of climate change, including the following:

  • Reduce water consumption, especially from aesthetic uses such as landscaping
  • Increase the area’s ability to capture, store and retrieve water from less frequent and more intense precipitation events
  • Develop crop contingency plans in case changing temperature and precipitation regimes reduce the viability of current, major crops supporting our economy
  • Support the Fresno Green Building Program and expand it where possible into retrofit and renovation projects
  • Support compact growth and New Urbanism principles
  • Develop green jobs
  • Showcase green technologies and green communities in the Fresno area
  • Develop a long-term sustainability research and development program with local educational institutions

Climate change, concludes the report, “is a fundamental challenge for the citizens of Fresno and the metropolitan region to continue to support and build community while, at the same time, providing the greatest number of opportunities for success and continued, if not improved, quality of life.”

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