When you think about climate change, you most likely envision ice shelves dramatically tumbling into the sea or rising waters making parts of the coasts uninhabitable. The desert will be impacted as well, but the signs won’t be so dramatic.
Driving the news: A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment presented to The Palm Springs Sustainability Commission Tuesday evening laid out what we’re most likely to deal with in the Coachella Valley in the not-so-distant future. Its core findings – including who is most at risk — should come as no surprise.
- The assessment found that the impacts of climate change will weigh heavier on vulnerable populations in our city, including households in poverty, immigrants, refugees, outdoor workers, undocumented people, and seniors living alone.
Closer look: The report, done by Los Angeles-based PlaceWorks, found that the number of extreme heat days in Palm Springs is projected to increase to an average of 28 per year by midcentury, and an average of 50 extreme heat days per year by the end of the century.
- The report defined “extreme heat” as any day when temperatures reach above 107 degrees, but during the presentation Tuesday it was noted that 115 degrees is the true mark.
- Last year Palm Springs recorded roughly a dozen days where the temperature reached 115 degrees or above.
Bigger picture: Palm Springs and Riverside County are in severe drought conditions and depend on water from the Colorado River. The river has been making national headlines the past few weeks as more dire reports come out about its depleted reserves.
- Most of our water comes from the Colorado River, with small amounts coming from groundwater, according to the 2018 Coachella Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.
- The report presented Tuesday says local water districts have contingency plans, but that water prices could rise. That will put more of a burden on low-income and disadvantaged families
Why it matters: The report was prepared to meet a state requirement to include a Vulnerability Assessment in the city’s Safety Element in order to help prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change.
- The Safety Element is a part of the city’s limited update to the general plan for the year 2040.
What they’re saying: Residents who spoke at the meeting mentioned the urgent need for more and safer bike routes as well as more efficient buses to encourage car-free transportation.
- “It’s all linked, in terms of vulnerability, climate mitigation, adaptation, and getting cars off the road,” said Commissioner David Freedman. “I want to make sure we can look at everything and put our sustainability thumb on those scales.”