In California’s fourth climate change assessment, the Sierra Nevada region is huge, extending along the eastern edge of the state from the Oregon border all the way down to Death Valley in the southeast. It includes 14 entire counties, plus the eastern parts of 4 others. The discovery of gold here in the mid-1800s led to many thousands of people pouring into the area, but today only 3% of it is cities or agricultural areas. The remaining 97% is grasslands, shrublands, forests, and, in the south, high desert. Four young people spoke with me and helped me understand how climate change is likely to affect day-to-day life in this region.
In what ways is climate change expected to affect the Sierra Nevada region? Which of these effects will have the greatest impact on people’s day-to-day lives, in your opinion?
How are current fire- and water-related problems in the Sierra Nevada region related to climate change? How are they related to human decisions and government policies in California?
This episode discusses wildfire, soil dryness, and tree mortality. Take a look at the maps showing fire incidents, soil moisture levels, and tree mortality across the state. How does your hometown compare to the towns you heard about in this episode? (They are: Penn Valley, Nevada City, Big Pine, Bishop)
Have you had any weather- or environment-related experiences similar to the young people in this episode? If so, how are your experiences similar? If not, why do you think that is?
In order of appearance, the young people I interviewed for this episode were: Antonino (Penn Valley), Evelyn (Nevada City), Brooke (Big Pine), and Joseph (Bishop).
If you want to dig deeper into some of the topics in this episode, here are some places to begin.
About anticipated climate change impacts:
About the Camp Fire (aka the Paradise Fire):
“Last day in Paradise: the untold story of how a fire swallowed a town” from The Guardian
“Camp Fire Caused Nearly 2 Straight Weeks of Bay Area's Worst Air Quality on Record” from The California Report
“Rebuilding Paradise” from The Indicator from Planet Money
About nuclear energy:
“As nuclear waste piles up, scientists seek the best long-term storage solutions” from Chemical & Engineering News
“Industry Meltdown: Is the Era of Nuclear Power Coming to an End?” from Yale Environment 360
“Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Trash Heap Deadly for 250,000 Years or a Renewable Energy Source?” from Scientific American
“We’ve been having the wrong debate about nuclear energy” from Yale Climate Solutions
“3 Reasons California Is Always on Fire” from Poopy Archaeology
Dangerous Development: Fire and Rural Sprawl in the Sierra Nevada from Sierra Nevada Alliance
“They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?” from ProPublica
“SNC funds prescribed fire & cultural burning training project” from Sierra Nevada Conservancy
About the genocide against Native Californians:
About water in the Owens Valley:
“Payahǖǖnadǖ Water Story” from Wading Through the Past
“Reimagining Payahuunadü” from Owens Valley Indian Water Commission