Ascent Environmental Member Spotlight

Sacramento County Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

As climate change continues to adversely impact natural resources and the human population,  local governments will have to respond to the secondary consequences of climate change on their communities. The County of Sacramento has a history of taking these threats seriously and responding to environmental threats through local and regional sustainability initiatives. In 2011 the County adopted an initial “Phase 1” Climate Action Plan (CAP) that included both greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and adaptation strategies. The County is now updating its CAP to establish more specific policies and programs to mitigate GHG emissions and achieve its GHG reduction targets as well as provide more specific adaptation policies and programs.  In order to assess the region’s vulnerabilities for the County’s CAP, Ascent Environmental prepared a county-wide Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment – a valuable resource for Sacramento County and other planning agencies in the region, and the focus of this CRC Member Spotlight.


The Sacramento County Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment is a separate technical portion of the CAP intended to provide an analysis of the primary and secondary threats associated with climate change most likely to impact Sacramento County. The findings of the Assessment are being used in the CAP to develop climate adaptation strategies that address these threats. In its analysis, the Vulnerability Assessment provides a comprehensive overview of the following primary climate threats as they are projected to impact the region:

  • Rising sea levels
  • Changes in timing, severity, and amounts of rainfall and snowfall
  • Increased stress to vegetation and terrestrial and aquatic habitats
  • Changes in the frequency and duration of heat waves and droughts
  • Increase in wildfire hazards

The Vulnerability Assessment also examines the potential for a wide variety of secondary consequences resulting from primary climate threats. Analysis of potential secondary consequences in the Assessment will provide the CAP with additional information useful to the development of adaptation strategies related to the physical, social, and economic characteristics within the County. Incorporation of these adaptation strategies will be important in the years to come as climate change poses an increasing threat. Over the long term, the primary climate change threats have the potential to contribute to the following secondary consequences:

  • Human health and safety risks
  • Economic disruptions
  • Diminished water supply
  • Shifts in ecosystem function and habitat qualities
  • Difficulties with provision of basic services

The assessment of primary and secondary threats in the region is geared toward the climate change adaptation planning process, including local hazard mitigation plans pursuant to requirements set by SB 379. The comprehensive Assessment examines the impacts of climate change and its subsequent threats on a variety of landscapes and populations across the County including the Delta, disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, and unincorporated portions of the City. The assessment and analysis of possible adaptation and mitigation strategies are generally consistent with guidance provided in the California Adaptation Planning Guide (APG), which provides climate change guidance to cities, counties, and local governments.

Progress & future

The Vulnerability Assessment was completed in January of 2017 and will serve as the basis for developing adaptation strategies and programs for the County’s CAP. Given the in-progress status of CAP, Sacramento County has not yet indicated how often the Vulnerability Assessment should be updated. The Vulnerability Assessment will also serve as a helpful resource for other agencies and organizations in the region who are considering climate change impacts and vulnerability in future planning efforts.


Ascent Environmental served as the primary author of the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, with input and direction from Sacramento County staff. The Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative also provided input.

Urban Heat Island Index for Sacramento County

The effects of seal-level rise in Sacramento County during a 100-year flood event.