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California & Climate Change

The United Nations recently released a new climate change report and issued a 'code red for humanity'. It gives a grim glimpse of the world's future, as the report's statement on climate change being primarily human-caused, is the most disheartening part. With every part of the globe affected by the actions of humans, seeing the outlook could have us asking ourselves: what can we do about climate change? In Southern California, we are witnessing the effects, as it has warmed three degrees (F) in the last century, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. Heat waves are becoming more common, snow is melting earlier in spring—and in southern California, less rain is falling as well. The state needs to reduce conflicts between land preservation and renewable energy production and help build an electricity system more resilient to wildfires and other climate-related disasters and Flex Alert is here to help.

Energy conservation during a Flex Alert can help prevent rotating power outages

Conserving energy, natural gas, and water can save money and help protect our natural resources. What is a Flex Alert? A Flex Alert is a call to residents to voluntarily conserve energy when demand for power could outstrip supply — which generally occurs during heat waves — to avoid power disruptions and rolling blackouts, according to the California Independent System Operator, which runs most of the state's electric grid. During a Flex Alert, energy conservation is critical to reduce stress on the grid. This is just one of the many attempts the state has towards preventing damage caused by climate change.

Another attempt by the state can be seen through Senate Bill 479, authored by State Senator John Laird (D – Santa Cruz). California executive order requires that by 2035, all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles. The Senate Bill expands the list of eligible local governments to participate in the Renewable Energy Self-Generation Bill Credit Transfer Program (RES-BCT) to include tribal governments. This is a giant leap forward for the state, aiming to preserve entry to avoid natural disasters.

Natural disasters such as drought will have a devastating impact on food insecurity not only in California, but for the nation. California farmers produce nearly 13% of all food for the US. Agriculture serves as an important part of the state’s economy and is a top producer of vegetables, berries, nuts and dairy products. The last major drought from 2012 to 2017 reduced irrigation supplies to farmers, forced strict household conservation measures and began deadly wildfires. According to the USDA, nearly 40% of California's 24.6 million acres of farmland are irrigated, with crops like almonds and grapes in some regions needing more water to thrive.

Higher temperatures and drought are likely to increase the severity, frequency, and extent of wildfires, which could harm property, livelihoods, and human health. On average, 4 percent of the land in California has burned per decade since 1984, according to the Science Daily. In 2003, the Old, Grand Prix, and Padua wildfires destroyed 800 homes in southern California, forced 100,000 residents to be evacuated, and cost $1.3 billion. Wildfire smoke can reduce air quality and increase medical visits for chest pains, respiratory problems and heart problems.

The combination of more fires and drier conditions may expand deserts and otherwise change parts of California’s landscape. Many plants and animals living in arid lands are already near the limits of what they can tolerate. In some cases, native vegetation may persist and delay or prevent expansion of the desert. In other cases, fires or livestock grazing may accelerate the conversion of grassland to desert in response to a changing climate.

Flex Alert is just one of the many ways you can aid in preserving electricity. The statewide Flex Alert goes into effect from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Before the Flex Alert takes effect and when solar energy is abundant, here are some steps to be comfortable and help grid operators balance supply and demand:

Pre-cool your home by lowering the thermostat to 72 degrees

  • If you need to use your major appliances, do it before the Flex Alert is in effect, when solar energy is plentiful

  • Close blinds and drapes to keep the heat out of your home or apartment

  • Charge electronic devices and electric vehicles so there’s no need to do it later

During the Flex Alert period, consumers are encouraged to:

  • Set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, or use fans to cool the home, if your health permits

  • Avoid using major appliances, like dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights

  • Unplug unused items


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