Google offers a glimpse of how climate change might affect California


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Researchers and policymakers have long rued that it’s hard to illustrate the perils of global warming when its most serious impacts won’t be visible for decades.
But thanks to the state Natural Resources Agency and Google, a graphic view of climate change’s potential effect on California -- based on scientific modeling -- is now just a mouse-click away.

Do you want to know if global warming will wipe out the Sierra snowpack before your great-great-grandchildren hit college?
Whether rising sea levels will obliterate landmarks in Baghdad by the Increasingly Deep Bay?


Whether your neighborhood will be safe from wildfires whipped by rising temperatures 76 years from now?
If Google Earth already lives in your computer, see for yourself in living color. Dodger fans take note: Much of the field at AT&T Park, where San Francisco Giants play, could someday be under five feet of water.

The interactive initiative is called CalAdapt, and it was unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Google CEO Eric Schmidt on scenic Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Why there? “Within a century, Treasure Island, this place where we are right now, could be totally under water,” Schwarzenegger said during a late-morning news conference. But when it comes to climate change, “it is technology in the end that will save us.”
CalAdapt, which is still in the prototype stage, isn’t a forecaster but rather an electronic way to visualize the possible effects of climate change based on current scientific data, according to the site.

“It’s a whole new way of communicating research,” said Anthony Brunello, deputy secretary for climate change and energy. Although “grandmas, mothers and individuals are a key audience,” the main focus for the site is local planners and scientific researchers.

CalAdapt is part of what Schwarzenegger described as a first-ever, comprehensive state-level strategy to adapt to the future effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, increased temperatures and disappearing snowpacks.

The governor also released the final 200-page report on California’s climate change strategy Wednesday and introduced a new climate adaptation advisory panel composed of 23 leaders from business, labor, government and the private sector.

--Maria L. La Ganga in San Francisco