Research and Tool Development

California’s leadership in climate change policy is built on a strong foundation of research addressing the impacts of climate change on the state, as well as strategies to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In turn, the state’s research responds directly to policy needs and is enacted through Safeguarding California.

California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment

California’s Climate Change Research Plan, released in 2015, articulates near-term climate change research needs to ensure that the state stays on track to meet its climate goals. The Fourth Climate Change Assessment is the first inter-agency effort to implement a substantial portion of the Climate Change Research Plan. The Resources Agency, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the Climate Action Team (CAT) Research Working Group, has developed a proposed portfolio of projects for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.

The Fourth Assessment builds on the success of three prior assessments to address California-specific policy questions and information needs detailed below. This latest assessment is being supported through two funding sources, one managed by the California Energy Commission (CEC) and another by the California Natural Resources Agency.

This research is now underway.

Find information about the projects managed by the California Energy Commission and the principal investigators conducting them here:

California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment: Energy Research Portfolio
Susan Wilhelm, Ph.D., of the Energy Commission manages this portfolio (

Find information about the projects managed by the Natural Resources Agency and the principal investigators conducting them here:

California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment: Resources Research Portfolio
Jamie Anderson, Ph.D., P.E., of the Department of Water Resources manages this portfolio (

Find information about the projects not funded by the Fourth Climate Change Assessment that are being coordinated in conjunction with the full body of work here:

California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment: External Collaborator Projects
Joseph Wall of the Natural Resources Agency manages this portfolio (

Find information about the initial scope of work for the project here:

California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment: Conceptual Sketches of Projects for the Non-Energy Research Portfolio

California’s Climate Change Assessments

The state has completed three prior Climate Change Assessments. The first California Climate Change Assessment (First Assessment), completed in 2006, began the work of trying to “downscale” global climate models in order to provide information about expected climate impacts at a regionally-relevant scale. Climate impacts will not be uniform across the world, and it is necessary to have climate impact information at a finer resolution (i.e. the western United States, the state of California, subregions and communities in California) in order to craft local, state and regional climate policies and solutions. The First Assessment provided support for passage of AB32 and the development of the Air Resources Board’s (ARB) 2008 Scoping Plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The second California Climate Change Assessment (Second Assessment), completed in 2009, provided initial estimates of some of the economic impacts of expected and unfolding climate risks in the state, such as costs to coastal economies from sea level rise. Expected climate impacts will have very significant economic impacts that may be reduced with appropriate measures to reduce climate risks. The Second Assessment provided support for the state’s 2009 California Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, the state’s first multi-sectoral effort to plan for climate risks.

The third California Climate Change Assessment (Third Assessment), completed in 2012, was shaped by requests for additional information regarding state vulnerabilities to climate change, including: 1) the need to better understand institutional barriers to efforts to prepare for climate risks, 2) risks in specific sectors (water, energy, agriculture), and 3) risks at the local scale. The Third Assessment supported the development of the Safeguarding California Plan for reducing climate risk (an update to the 2009 California Climate Change Adaptation Strategy). The significant advances in climate science in the Third Assessment allowed the Safeguarding California Plan to expand and refine recommendations for reducing climate risk in California.

For more information about the state’s prior climate assessments, please see the California Climate Portal.

Climate science and knowledge about climate impacts continues to evolve and be refined, both through improvements in impact modeling and direct observations of the changing climate over time. In order to support California leadership on climate policies and actions, it is critical that California continue to invest in regionally-relevant climate science that is complementary to local, federal and international climate science efforts.

A fourth California Climate Change Assessment (Fourth Assessment) will provide critical additional information to support decisions that will safeguard the people, economy and resources of California. Among other informational gaps about climate vulnerabilities, California still lacks critical information regarding expected climate impacts from extreme weather events (climate change not only creates new average conditions, but is also expected to create more extreme events such as more frequent and more severe wildfires, and more intense and more frequent drought); a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that a single extreme winter storm in California could cost on the order of $725 billion – with total direct property losses of nearly $400 billion, of which $20 billion to $30 billion would be recoverable through insurance, and business interruption costs of $325 billion. California also needs to better understand the scope, timing, cost and feasibility of various management options to address climate risks. Accurately understanding climate risks and management options will allow the state to prioritize actions and investments to safeguard the people, economy and natural resources of California.

Cal-Adapt is a web-based climate adaptation planning tool. Cal-Adapt allows the user to identify potential climate change risks in specific geographic areas throughout the state. Users can either query by location, or click on an interactive map to explore what climate impacts are projected to occur in their area of interest.

This tool is integrated into resources like the Adaptation Planning Guide for local and regional governments. It helps communicate science from California’s Climate Change Assessments and other groundbreaking projects to all Californians, illustrating state government’s commitment to making the best available science actionable.

We are actively updating our Climate Tools and building new ones. You can find the beta version of the new Cal-Adapt site here:

This new site will include the best available downscaled climate data for visualization and download.  It will also host a comprehensive set of resources for climate change adaptation.  A new Public API will allow for the third-party development of web-based tools that draw from the climate data on Cal-Adapt.

Other Climate Adaptation Tools

California Local Energy Assurance Planning Tool: The California Local Energy Assurance Planning (CaLEAP) program is a California Energy Commission sponsored project to assist local governments throughout the State in preparing plans to ensure that key assets are resilient to disaster events that impact energy. The CaLEAP Planning Tool is a designed to help local governments develop Energy Assurance Plans (EAPs).

CalEMA’s MyPlan: MyPlan is a map service designed to be a simple interface to California natural hazard data products produced by the California Natural Resources Agency departments and other government agencies. This Web site is provided by Cal EMA to allow users to easily make hazard maps for preparing, upgrading and reviewing Local Hazard Mitigation Plans (LHMPs), General PlanSafety Elements, Local Coastal Plans (LCPs), and hazard mitigation projects.

CalEMA’s MyHazards: Use this website to discover the hazards that exist in your area and learn how to reduce YOUR risk! Remember, the best way to recover from disasters is by reducing the risks before a disaster strikes.


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