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Climate concerns heat up in Santa Barbara County with a new report on what’s at risk

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - If you've seen extreme heat, harsh storms, drought, intense weather patterns or forecasts that change rapidly, it may be linked to climate change.

The impacts are becoming more challenging to get in front of and Santa Barbara County is taking steps to help those who may be at risk.

A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (CCVA) is underway.

County Senior Planner, Whitney Wilkinson shared the results of the recent work with the Board of Supervisors this week.

It covered the entire county from Carpinteria to New Cuyama.

Climate-related hazards are the priority for the work, along with identifying the vulnerable populations.

Extreme heat is one of the factors and it changes countywide. The threshold in the south county is 87 degrees. In the north county region of the Cuyama Valley, it is 101 degrees.

Large storms from atmospheric rivers and the severe flooding that will result are expected to occur during climate change.

Debris flow events are expected to be more likely with more precipitation and "hillsides more frequently have burn scars," said Wilkinson.

There are 22 frontline populations of concern. They include people with high outdoor exposure, children, seniors living alone, people with disabilities, and people living in isolated rural communities.

The report also looked at assets at risk including waterways, buildings, transportation, utilities, agricultural areas and tourism.

The top events that could impact the county include wildfires, landslides and inland flooding.

The report says Santa Barbara County can expect a 36 percent increase in wildfire impacts by 2100. Areas with single access roads such as Hollister Ranch, Mission Hills and Santa Rita Hills were considered of high risk.

The report suggests more fire-resistant planning is necessary.

The report also suggested some industries that might be resistant to the changes necessary. Oil and agriculture were named in the report.

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he has seen agriculture adapting to new techniques that will include better yields and efficiencies.

Next up will be planning to address the issues and working with groups focused on the necessary changes to adapt to the climate change predictions. That will take place in 2022.

For more information go to Santa Barbara County Planning - Climate Change

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John Palminteri

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