CAL FIRE Climate Change Program

The increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is contributing to global warming and other climate changes. These effects are likely to impact the health of California forests and rangelands, the goods and services they provide, and the well-being of people who inhabit and use them.

CAL FIRE is working at local, state and national levels to protect and manage California forests so they can continue to provide net greenhouse gas benefits and so that we can reduce impacts to forests of those climate changes already taking place.

Current climate models for forests and rangelands predict that California will soon be experiencing many changes as a result of climate change. These include increased wildfire frequency and intensity; longer fire seasons; declines in distribution, productivity and health of conifers and some range species; changes in ecosystems, wildlife habitat and populations; potential increases in drought, insects and disease in Southern California; and increased spread of invasive species.

Healthy forests have an important role to play in addressing climate change. Trees remove carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas of concern, from the air and store it as carbon in as they grow. When trees die, they release CO2 back into the atmosphere. Forest damage and loss to wildfires, insects and disease, or development can result in large CO2 emissions.

CAL FIRE has identified five forestry strategies for reducing or mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. They are:

  • Reforestation to sequester more carbon
  • Forestland conservation to avoid forest loss to development
  • Fuels reduction to reduce wildfire emissions and utilization of those materials for renewable energy
  • Urban forestry to reduce energy demand through shading, increase sequestration, and contribute biomass for energy generation
  • Improved management to increase carbon sequestration benefits and protect forest health

These strategies were recognized by the Governor's Climate Action Team reports in 2006 and 2007, and by the Air Resources Board in its Scoping Plan for AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act. The Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, in cooperation with the California Natural Resources Agency, will provide leadership in implementing these strategies for AB 32.

CAL FIRE is also working with stakeholders and other agencies to identify ways to reduce or adapt to unavoidable impacts to forest ecosystems and communities from climate changes that have already begun to occur. Adaptation can be defined as any action or adjustment to natural or human systems to minimize harm or take advantage of benefits from climate change. Adaptation strategies include:

  • Incorporate existing information about climate uncertainties and vulnerabilities into policy development and program planning
  • Improve institutional capacity for additional climate-related assessment, planning and monitoring
  • Develop and implement measures in partnership with stakeholders to increase forest and rangeland resilience, improve land use to address climate change and protect public safety and economic infrastructure, and ensure support and long term investment in adaptation
  • Implement high priority research
  • Monitor climate effects on forest health and the effectiveness of management actions

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