Google Earth explores climate risks to California

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 7:53 AM

Google Inc. launched a new feature in its Google Earth Web site Wednesday designed to let Californians see the risks of climate change.

Google unveiled the new interactive tool in San Francisco as part of a climate change press conference by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The state partnered with Google on the program that shows Californians how warming temperatures, rising sea levels, precipitation shifts and more frequent, intense wildfires impact their environment.

The feature, called CalAdapt, was one of the recommendations of a 200-page state report detailing how California should prepare for climate change.

"When it comes to fighting global warming and climate change, it is technology, in the end, that will save us all," Schwarzenegger said.

Internet users can view interactive maps showing such things as the shrinking snow pack along the Sierra Nevada and how a rise in sea level could submerge parts of San Francisco.

"It allows Californians to see what's happening to our wonderful and beautiful state," Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said.

The Google feature and climate report were produced after Schwarzenegger directed agencies last year to devise a strategy to prepare California for the inevitable changes ahead.

The Republican governor released his report on Treasure Island, a man-made island where three years ago he signed California's landmark global warming law that requires the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

The report warns rising temperatures over the next few decades will lead to more heat waves, wildfires, droughts and floods. It recommends avoiding development in low-lying areas vulnerable to rising sea level, storm surges and coastal erosion.

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Not all the responsibility lies with state government, however.

"The 800-pound gorilla is land-use and making changes at the local level," said Tony Brunello, deputy secretary for climate change and energy at the California Natural Resources Agency, who helped prepare the report.

Schwarzenegger also created a 23-member climate advisory panel to devise recommendations for how the state must adapt to climate change. Its members include former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Secretary William Reilly and former California Gov. Pete Wilson.

The recommendations are due in July.