SIERRA NEVADA CLIMATE VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT
A project of Sierra CAMP, the Sierra Nevada Climate Vulnerability Assessment will help communities within our region prepare for climate change by examining social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities specific to our region and by providing climate planning technical assistance.
This project was prepared for and funded by Sierra Nevada Conservancy. The Sierra Nevada Climate Vulnerability Assessment was prepared by Sierra Business Council with assistance from The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment. Climate data was provided by the California-Nevada Climate Applications Program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
While climate impacts in the Sierra Nevada, such as decreasing snowpack, drought, and intensifying wildfire, are well studied, this assessment is the first to place these in the context of existing communities and identify and rank climate-related environmental, social, and economic vulnerability across this large, diverse, and rural region.
The report will assist communities in their own climate-planning efforts, while also helping them to communicate and contextualize local climate vulnerability for regional and statewide policymakers.
READ the Report
Watch the Summary Presentation
Plan for Climate Change
The primary intent of this report is to provide an understanding of climate risks within the SNC region and to technically assist with the implementation of Senate Bill 379 (SB 379). Many SNC communities do not have a hazard mitigation plan or updated safety element as required by SB 379. This assessment is intended to provide more specific indicators and hazards at the jurisdictional level, and explain how Sierra ecosystems, economies, and communities will be impacted by those hazards. This assessment can be used to inform hazard mitigation plans and safety elements for counties within the SNC region.
The Sierra Nevada Climate Vulnerability Assessment was designed to technically assist with implementation of California SB 379. SB 379 is a land use/general plan/safety element act to amend Section 65302 of the Government Code approved by the governor in 2015. This assessment coupled with the Adaptation Planning Guide (APG) provides a starting point for counties and cities within the region to jumpstart their incorporation of SB 379. SB 379 requires that all cities and counties within California integrate climate adaptation into their general plans by 2022 (depending on whether or not jurisdictions already have a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan).
The Sierra Nevada Climate Vulnerability Assessment identifies climate vulnerabilities specific to the Modoc Plateau, Southern Cascades, Basin and Range, and the Sierra Nevada within the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) boundary.
The assessment is designed to provide communities with climate projection data and technical support needed to undertake climate planning and priority-project identification. This climate assessment was guided by a triple bottom line approach that considers the economy, environment, and community simultaneously and holds that these sectors thrive when positioned in balance with each other.
The primary intent of this assessment is to assist with climate action in a region where many rural communities are faced with capacity challenges. Sierra Business Council (SBC) designed this document to be an informative tool that helps educate stakeholders and policymakers about the Sierra Nevada region, and guide them to make better-informed decisions regarding the region.
How this report is organized:
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Climate and Environmental Research Specific to the Sierra Nevada Region
- The natural environment in the Sierra Nevada region will be impacted by a warming climate.
- The top three climate crises currently facing the region are drought, wildfire, and snowpack decline.
- These climate crises, along with 20 other Sierra-specific climate indicators, will have far-reaching impacts on the environment, local economies, and public health.
Chapter 3: Understanding Underserved Populations
- Within the RegionOver 880,000 people live within the SNC region, of which more than half are underserved or disadvantaged.
- The groups most vulnerable to climate impacts include the marginalized, the underserved, and the underrepresented. These groups include People of Color, California Native American tribes, individuals in poverty, and the disabled community. Across the SNC region, the greatest climate impact to vulnerable populations is wildfire.
Chapter 4: Economic and Built Systems Vulnerabilities
- The regional economic drivers are tourism, recreation, natural resources, and agriculture.
- However, local government and social services (i.e., health care, education, and transportation) are the largest employers in the Sierra Nevada region.
- Even though tourism is a primary economic driver in the SNC region (visitor spending exceeded $9 billion in 2019), the tourism and recreation industry pays some of the lowest wages and is one of the drivers most vulnerable to climate impacts. New opportunities in natural resources may increase economic development in the region due to a growing biomass industry and increased forest management needs.
- Across the SNC region, the median household income does not meet the cost of living, and lack of affordable housing and access to quality infrastructure (e.g., broadband) may limit a community’s capacity to endure and recover financially from climate impacts
Chapter 5: Community Capacity Assessments
- These assessments were informed by community-held workshops, and scores were assigned by community member participants in the workshops.
- Scores are relative to other communities within the SNC region.
- The goal of these workshops was to gain insight into community capacity and to determine the ability of these communities to prepare and respond to climate impacts.
Chapter 6: Risk Profiles of Counties Within the Region
- These profiles highlight county-level climate vulnerabilities and risks that could impact the Sierra Nevada region’s populations, economies, and communities.
- Summaries can be used to assist with developing climate resiliency. Scores are presented for each of the 22 counties within the SNC region. Higher scores indicate increased severity of climate change impacts.
- Most counties within the region will see the greatest increases in extreme heat days and acreage burned by wildfires, while the vulnerable groups with the highest county populations are the housing burdened, residents without high-speed internet, People of Color, and senior citizens.
Chapter 7: Suggested Adaptation Framework and Strategies
- How to utilize California’s Adaptation Planning Guide (APG) as well as other resources using best practices
- Aggregated tools and resources for new users
- Examples of adaptation case studies
In 2020, Sierra CAMP was awarded a $191,655 Prop 68 Resilient Communities Grant from Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) to complete a triple-bottom-line climate vulnerability assessment across all 22 counties in SNC’s boundary. In partnership with stakeholders throughout the region, this work identifies environmental, social, and economic climate vulnerabilities specific to the Sierra Nevada region, while also providing communities with the data and technical support they need to undertake climate planning and priority-project identification.
The SBC team and our partners spent two years of extensive research, analysis, and writing to complete this assessment. SBC benefited from the expertise of a team of climate science professionals who modeled climate data, performed climate projections, and provided feedback on climate change impacts on public health, economies, and the environment in the Sierra Nevada.
Join Us In Creating A More Resilient Sierra.
To learn more about the 22-county climate vulnerability assessment, contact: