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Capital Region Climate News & Resources: March 25, 2021

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News

Redlined, now flooding

Homes in redlined neighborhoods are 25% more likely to be flooded, according to a report from the real estate firm Redfin – and Sacramento had the highest racial flood risk disparity in its analysis. Overlaying current flood risk assessments with maps of which neighborhoods were excluded from public investment via New Deal-era programs because of their high Black and immigrant populations — known as redlining — shows how the effects of those racist policies persist today. More than 1 in 5 homes (21.6%) in Sacramento’s formerly redlined neighborhoods face a high risk of flooding today, but in formerly greenlined areas, just 11.8% of homes face the same risk. Flood risk today isn’t race blind: Investments in sewers, levees and other infrastructure rescued some neighborhoods from flooding but left others behind. Systemic factors that guided investment exposed Black and Brown households to more severe flood risk. A vicious cycle of segregation and disinvestment reinforced the linkage between race and flood risk. (Bloomberg) Screenshot: University of Richmond’s Mapping Inequality project

Climate change and soaring flood insurance premiums could trigger another mortgage crisis

FEMA is revamping the debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program to make it operate like a private insurer, raising concerns that coverage could become unaffordable for many higher-risk areas across the country. Cities are worried that this could trigger a foreclosure crisis, especially in low-income, high-risk neighborhoods. (Vox) Photo Credit: Jorge Garcia for Vox/CPI

California’s wildfire smoke could be more harmful than vehicle emissions, study says

The wildfire smoke that shrouds California each autumn and winter could be more harmful to humans than pollution from cars and other sources, a new study has found. Tiny, toxic particles spewed by wind-whipped wildfires resulted in 10 times as many hospitalizations due to respiratory illness as compared to other types of pollution, researchers found in the study. The findings add to growing evidence that extreme fires, fueled by climate change, will have increasingly dire health consequences for residents in the western US. The pollution disproportionately impacts low-wage workers, and poor communities of color across the state who are already exposed to high levels of pollution from other sources including factories, highways and refineries. (Guardian)

California sets home hardening standards to lower fire risks

As consecutive years of catastrophic wildfires in California drive up the cost of insuring homes, state regulators announced a step toward creating incentives for retrofitting older homes to make them more resilient to fires. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said his office will work with four state agencies charged with wildfire response and prevention to establish statewide standards for home hardening — from replacing single to dual-paned windows to creating fire-resistant landscaping — that he hopes will reduce wildfire risks and make insurance more affordable and available in California. The move comes as insurance providers increasingly drop coverage in fire-prone regions of the state. (AP) Photo Credit: AP, Noah Berger

California AG challenges housing plans in wildfire areas

California’s attorney general is challenging some of the state’s largest suburban development projects as local officials weigh the risk of increasingly devastating wildfires against the state’s dire need for more housing. Attorney General Xavier Becerra backed lawsuits opposing San Diego County’s approval of environmental reviews for two projects in a very high wildfire hazard zone southeast of San Diego. Last month Becerra backed court challenges alleging that Lake County officials failed to properly take into account the increased wildfire risk from approving 1,400 homes, 850 hotel rooms and resort apartments and other resort amenities on the 16,000-acre Guenoc Valley Ranch. Becerra is acting under a 2018 update to CEQA, which created new standards for officials to analyze whether development projects will increase wildfire risks. (AP)

Summers could last for half the year by 2100

Our summers are already about 20% longer than they used to be, and if the climate crisis continues unabated then northern hemisphere summers could cover nearly half of the year by 2100, making them more than twice as long as they were in the 1950s. The average northern hemisphere summer has grown from 78 to 95 days between 1952 and 2011, while winter has shrunk from 76 to 73 days. Future summers could last an average of 166 days by 2100, squeezing out all the other seasons and shrinking winter to just 31 days. (Link) Photo: Onsets and lengths of the four seasons in 1952, 2011, 2050, and 2100. The top row is from HadGHCND, and the bottom row is from RCP8.5. HadGHCND, Hadley Centre’s Global Historical Climatology Network Daily; RCP, representative concentration pathways.

Already hit hard by pandemic, Black and Hispanic communities suffer the blows of an unforgiving winter storm

Texans of color, disproportionately devastated by death and unemployment during the last year, tend to live in neighborhoods with older homes, more vulnerable pipes and fewer food options. That’s made it harder to withstand the cold temperatures and power outages. (Texas Tribune) Photo Credit Ben Torres for The Texas Tribune

Texas blackouts point to coast-to-coast crises waiting to happen

Even as Texas struggled to restore electricity and water over the past week, signs of the risks posed by increasingly extreme weather to America’s aging infrastructure were cropping up across the country. One-third of oil production in the nation was halted. Drinking-water systems in Ohio were knocked offline. Road networks nationwide were paralyzed and vaccination efforts in 20 states were disrupted. As climate change brings more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and other extreme events, it is placing growing stress on the foundations of the country’s economy: Its network of roads and railways, drinking-water systems, power plants, electrical grids, industrial waste sites and even homes. Failures in just one sector can set off a domino effect of breakdowns in hard-to-predict ways. (NYT)

Mountain snowpack most at-risk from climate change

In a new study published, climate scientists with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that as temperatures rise, the timing of snowpack disappearance is changing most rapidly in coastal US and the south, with smaller changes in the northern interior of the country. This means that snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas, the Cascades, and the mountains of southern Arizona is much more vulnerable to rising temperatures than snowpack found in places like the Rockies or the mountains of Utah. Scientists theorize that changes in the amount of time that snow can accumulate and the amount of time the surface is covered with snow during the year are the critical reasons why some regions are more vulnerable to snowpack melt than others. (NOAA) Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith.

Adaptation can compound climate change impacts on energy and water

A recent study published in Environmental Research Letters presents a framework that outlines the links between and vulnerabilities of California’s energy and water systems. The findings can be used to evaluate how both climate change and our adaptation decisions might affect the interconnected systems. It’s a first and an “exhaustive” quantification of the linkages between energy and water. (EOS)

They’re among the world’s oldest living things. The climate crisis is killing them.

They are what scientists call charismatic megaflora, and there are few trees anywhere more charismatic than the three most famous species in California. People travel from around the world simply to walk among them in wonderment. The giant sequoia. The Joshua tree. The coast redwood. Scientists already feared for their future. Then came 2020. These losses, and the losses likely to come, are not something to be measured in mere acres. (NYT) Photo credit: Joel Quizon/EyeEm, via Getty Images

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Tools and Resources

California’s Wildfire & Forest Resilience Action Plan
Following the most destructive wildfire season in California’s recorded history, the Governor’s Forest Management Task Force issued a comprehensive action plan to reduce wildfire risk for vulnerable communities, improve the health of forests and wildlands and accelerate action to combat climate change. The Action Plan sets a broadly supported strategy to increase the pace and scale of forest and wildland management to meet the state’s target of completing projects on 500,000 acres annually by 2025 and expanding the use of prescribed fire, particularly on state-owned lands. The plan calls for achieving these goals largely through regional strategies tailored to the environmental conditions, risks and priorities in each area. (Link)
New Action Plan on How California Low-Income Weatherization Program Can Deliver Energy and Healthy Home Benefits
In collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, the Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) released an Action Plan recommending how CSD’s Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP) can be expanded to deliver comprehensive energy and healthy home improvements to multi-family housing through linkages with the health sector. Weatherization and energy efficiency retrofits to low-income, multi-family properties can help reduce household energy usage and utility costs, provide greater resilience to climate impacts such as extreme heat, and have been shown to improve health outcomes and home safety. (CSD)
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Upcoming Opportunities

The Next EPIC Challenge: Reimagining Affordable Mixed-Use Development in a Carbon-Constrained Future
The California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Change Program (EPIC) is funding a design-build competition that will challenge multi-disciplinary project teams to design and build a mixed-use development – using cutting-edge energy technologies, tools and construction practices – that is affordable, equitable, emissions-free and resilient to climate change impacts and extreme weather events. Concept application abstracts are due April 9. (Link)

404 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program

The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) provides funding for plans and projects that reduce the effects of future natural disasters. In California, these funds are administered by the CalOES HMGP Unit. Eligible subapplicants include state agencies, local governments, special districts, and some private non-profits. Sub-applicants must have a FEMA-approved and locally adopted Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) to be eligible. If your agency or jurisdiction does not have a LHMP, you may apply for grant funding to develop one. Deadline: May 1. (CalOES)

CivicSpark Partner applications for the 2021-22 service year

From September 2021 to August 2022, 100 CivicSpark Fellows will bring energy, commitment, and drive to support community resilience projects across California. Apply early to get support from our emerging leaders for your agency or organization’s community resilience programs. (CivicSpark)

CAL FIRE Fire Prevention Grants Program Accepting Applications
The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection’s Fire Prevention Grants Program provides funding for projects and activities that address the risk of wildfire, reduce wildfire potential, and increase community resiliency. Funded activities include hazardous fuel reduction, wildfire prevention planning, and wildfire prevention education with an emphasis on improving public health and safety while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Deadline: May 19, 3pm. (Apply)
Coming soon: mobile sources incentive funding in Sacramento, Yolo, and Solano

The Sac Metro Air District has over $18 million in mobile source incentive funding to improve air quality in Sacramento. Most of this funding is available in Sacramento, Solano, and Yolo Counties in partnership with the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District. The primary purpose of this funding is to promote zero emission equipment used instead of diesel in communities impacted by air pollution. However, applications are accepted for other categories, and one common application is used for all funding. Applications open March 29, deadline May 28. (SMAQMD)

Prop 68 Sierra Nevada Grant Programs
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy issues grants to public agencies, nonprofits, and eligible tribes for projects that restore, protect, and enhance Sierra Nevada watersheds and communities. These grants are awarded under three separate programs: Forest & Watershed Health, Resilient Sierra Nevada Communities, and Vibrant Recreation & Tourism. Beginning July 2020, prospective applicants are invited to submit concept proposals, which are reviewed on a quarterly basis. Up to $5 million from Proposition 68 funds are available for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 funding cycles. More information is available on the Conservancy website. (SNC)
Strategic Growth Council (SGC): Applications Now Open for AHSC Round 6

The SGC’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program is now accepting applications for Round 6! AHSC funds land-use, housing, transportation, and land preservation projects to support infill and compact development projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. AHSC provides grants and loans that help build projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit disadvantaged communities by increasing access to affordable housing, employment centers, and key destinations via low-carbon transportation. Visit the AHSC website for information about upcoming informational webinars, technical assistance opportunities, and detailed information about the program’s timeline. Deadline: June 8, 5pm. (SGC)

Floodplain Management, Protection, and Risk Awareness Grant Program

The Floodplain Management, Protection and Risk Awareness (FMPRA) Grant Program supports local agency efforts to prepare for flooding by providing financial assistance for flood risk reduction activities related to stormwater flooding, mudslides, and flash floods. The Program supports both the Public Safety Initiative announced by Governor Brown’s Administration in February 2017 and the Headwaters to Floodplains Flood Safety Partnership Program. $25 million is available. Deadline: Summer 2021. (DWR)

The Next EPIC Challenge: Reimagining Affordable Mixed-Use Development in a Carbon-Constrained Future

The California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Change Program (EPIC) is funding a design-build competition that will challenge multi-disciplinary project teams to design and build a mixed-use development – using cutting-edge energy technologies, tools and construction practices – that is affordable, equitable, emissions-free and resilient to climate change impacts and extreme weather events. Concept application abstracts are due by April 9, 2021. (Link)

Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP)

The California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Self-Generation Incentive Program offers rebates for installing energy storage technology at both households and non-residential facilities. These storage technologies include battery storage systems. This funding includes prioritization of communities living in high fire-threat areas, communities that have experienced two or more utility Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPSs), as well as low income and medically vulnerable customers. The funds are also available for “critical facilities” that support community resilience in the event of a PSPS or wildfire. In preparation for the next wildfire season, the CPUC has authorized funding of more than $1 billion through 2024. (CPUC and website)

Forest and Watershed Health – Direct Grants Program

The Forest and Watershed Health Directed Grants Program aims to support projects that create or improve forest conditions that result in a combination of multiple watershed, ecosystem, and community benefits. To be considered, projects must fall within at least one of the following focus areas: 1) implementation of prescribed fire; 2) projects that connect and serve underserved partners; 3) large-landscape planning projects for forest health that demonstrate multiple watershed and ecosystem benefits on a minimum of 10,000 acres. Applicants will submit a concept proposal, and then may be invited to develop a full proposal in collaboration with SNC. The cycle will repeat every quarter. (SNC)

California Volkswagen Mitigation Trust: School and Shuttle Buses Funding

The VW Mitigation Trust has $130 million in funding to replace older, high-polluting transit and shuttle buses with new battery-electric or fuel-cell buses. Replacing an older bus with a zero-emission bus eliminates particulate matter and other pollutants. The organization accepts applications on an ongoing basis. (Apply)

California Wildlands Grassroots Fund

Cal Wildlands supports conservationists advocating for the permanent protection, including restoration and stewardship, of intact wildlands on both public and private lands to help preserve California’s wilderness and native biological diversity. Though many of our grantees’ projects are in rural areas, we may also support projects near urban or suburban settings, provided they feature connectivity to larger protected areas and/or are located along critical wildlife corridors. Funding decisions are made on a quarterly basis, but applications are accepted any time. (Link)

Clean Mobility Options Voucher Pilot: Applications open

The Clean Mobility Options Voucher Pilot provides funding for the design and implementation of clean mobility projects in California’s historically underserved communities. $20 million is available in 2020 for two types of projects: 1) the Community Transportation Needs Assessment Vouchers help communities to engage residents to identify their biggest transportation needs; and 2) Mobility Project Vouchers fund the implementation of projects that increase access to transportation, designed with community priorities at the forefront. (Link)

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