Oakland, Calif. (Jan. 6, 2022)—A new report released today about how climate change is affecting California’s San Joaquin Valley says the nation’s leading agricultural region is facing the most challenging environmental and socioeconomic conditions in the state including water insecurity and some of the worst air quality in the United States.
The San Joaquin Valley Region Report is one of 12 assessments produced by leading climate experts as part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment to support climate action by providing an overview of climate-related risks and adaptation strategies.
Jose Pablo Ortiz-Partida, the Western States climate and water scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and one of the lead authors of the report, says increasing heat, drought and air pollution are worsening the quality of life and economic conditions of millions of San Joaquin Valley residents, particularly those living in disadvantaged communities.
However, he said actions can be taken to improve the Valley’s environmental conditions and benefit California’s major food-growing region.
“Our report recommends actions we can take to bring environmental justice and economic opportunities to the San Joaquin Valley as we face increasingly severe climate impacts,” said Ortiz-Partida.
The strategies suggested by the report include repurposing land surrounding disadvantaged rural communities into green areas, aquifer recharge projects and wildlife corridors, which would revive ecosystems that are currently the most degraded in the state.
The report says diversifying the use of farmland can decrease the economic challenges that farmers face with climate change. It specifically recommends that farms incorporate solar energy and carbon sequestration to both create new income sources and maintain their productivity in the face of water scarcity and environmental degradation.
"We hope this opens the path for more equitable opportunities in the Valley through the development of projects that incorporate adaptation and mitigation strategies to minimize the impact of climate change,” said Angel Fernandez-Bou, the coordinating lead author of the report and researcher at UC Merced.
“The centrality of agriculture to the San Joaquin Valley presents outstanding options to sequester carbon and recharge aquifers, to promote clean water and air, to boost ecosystem services and create habitat for endangered species,” said Fernandez-Bou.