Hotter, Dryer, and More Flammable: Mendocino County and Climate Change


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By Bennett Gaylord

As the globe experiences the effects of climate change, scientists predict Mendocino County could be impacted by the coastline rising, fires, droughts, farming, and agricultural slumps, and many more possibilities. Over the next few years, the climate could be changing in drastic ways, and UHS News examines some of those possibilities for our local future.

One of the biggest concerns about climate change is the rise in temperatures over the next century. The California Department of Public Health Predicts that California’s temperature could significantly increase the temperature over the next few years. The CDPH states, “[t]he projected temperature increases begin to diverge at mid-century so that, by the end of the century, the temperature increases projected in the higher emissions scenario are approximately twice as high as those projected in the lower emissions scenario.” This temperature increase taking place over the next few decades could result in a litany of problems, one of those being ice sheets melting in the arctic, potentially causing sea levels to rise.

The CDPH has many predictions on how sea levels rising might impact Mendocino County and areas around it: “Climate change models indicate that California may see up to a 66 inch (167 cm) rise in sea level within this century.” With sea rising onto the shore, there is a possibility for the coast being pushed further and further onto land, in some drastic cases, causing entire towns to become engulfed by the rising of the sea. 

With temperatures rising across California, wildfires are also a huge concern. Already, wildfires are a massive problem across the county, but with global warming raising the heat, there could be a higher threat than ever before. The CDPH provides a graph illustrating how wildfire risks may increase in future decades. At the start of 2020, they rank Mendocino County at a 1.29 high emission scenario, and by the time the graph reaches 2080, Mendocino county is ranked at a 3.56 high emission scenario. 

Though California already has a problem with droughts and lack of moisture, as the globe warms, these risks could increase: “Drought may increase exposure to health hazards including wildfires, dust storms, extreme heat events, flash flooding, degraded water quality, and reduced water quantity” With droughts taking away the ability to easily access water, many things also become more challenging, including fighting wildfires with natural resources like lakes near the fires. The report by the CDPH explains, “[d]rought decreases the availability and quality of water for humans. This includes reduced water levels to fight wildfire.”

Because of the heat, the CDPH also predicts a rise in heat-related illnesses. Those including mild heat stress, or fatal heat strokes. “Increased heat also intensifies the photochemical reactions that produce smog and ground-level ozone and fine particulates (PM2.5), which contribute to and exacerbate respiratory disease in children and adults.” Also, “Increased heat and carbon dioxide enhance the growth of plants that produce pollen, which are associated with allergies.” With all this in mind, it is important to know which groups are most at risk of being affected by climate change. 

Shockingly, the CDPH says that no one can avoid climate change; even the wealthy in California will somehow be impacted. “Even if one is fortunate to live, work, study, or play in a place without direct contact with wildfires, flooding, or sea-level rise, no one can entirely avoid excessive heat or the indirect effects of extreme weather events” This means that climate change and global warming, is everyone’s problem, not just the less fortunate. The CDPH says that even though everyone could be impacted, a particular group is at a higher risk: 

“Based on medical reviews of individuals who died during heatwaves and other extreme weather events, those who are particularly vulnerable to the direct effects of climate change include the very old and very young, individuals who have chronic medical conditions and psychiatric illness, people taking multiple medications, people without means for evacuation (no access to public transit or private cars), people who are socially isolated, medically fragile people, and people living in institutions” 

The CDPH also says that climate change’s adverse effects will not equally be distributed amongst the population: “Climate change magnifies existing health disparities. Disadvantaged populations, such as those with low education, experiencing racial segregation, low social support, poverty, and income inequality face disproportionate climate-related health burden.” 

With all the risks in mind, the CDPH is working on ways that Mendocino County can adapt to climate change such as “ community education and engagement, public health workforce development, identification of co-benefits, bolstering existing functions of public health preparedness and surveillance, multisectorial partnership building, and research.” The CDPH thinks that spreading knowledge on global warming so that people can become more aware of how they can stop it in their world is the best way to go. If everyone is educated, then Mendocino County as a community, can work together to slow down the risks and hazards that climate change will bring.  

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