In 2013, President Obama announced a sweeping climate action plan aiming to cut carbon pollution, help cities adapt to the effects of climate change, and lead international efforts to address the impacts of our changing climate. The San Francisco Department of the Environment is taking concerted efforts to ensure that our city is working at the local level to be part of the solution.
Thanks to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, San Francisco has reduced greenhouse gas emissions 14.5 percent below 1990 levels, doubling reduction goals set by the Kyoto Protocol. This milestone is certainly something to celebrate, and exemplifies how innovative policies around energy, waste, and transportation, combined with community-based grassroots action can truly make a difference.
Despite this progress, San Francisco is already facing the impacts of an impacted climate. Climate change is happening quicker than expected and the City is working hard to make sure San Francisco is prepared to adapt.
Under Mayor Lee's leadership, the Department of the Environment, in partnership with the Public Utilities Commission and Planning Department, has convened an inter-agency Climate Adaptation Working Group. Participating agencies include the City Administrators Office, the Port, the San Francisco International Airport, the Department of Public Works, the Municipal Transportation Association, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Recreation and Parks.
The Climate Adaptation Working Group is currently focusing on the City’s most imminent adaptation concerns:
- Sea level rise along Ocean Beach and shores
- Flooding from storm surges and extreme rain events
- An increased likelihood of extreme heat
- Decreased fog that supports the region’s iconic redwoods and local ecosystems
Sea Level Rise and Flooding
The working group will help protect the city from rising seas by focusing on strengthening the city’s sea walls, which are barriers that prevent sea level rise from reaching the land. This also includes ensuring that people who live in low-lying areas have proper flood insurance, that new developments have a low-carbon impact and are built with to withstand flooding. In addition to these infrastructure improvements, the working group will also assess nature-based solutions to enhance and utilize natural systems like wetlands to protect the shoreline.
Extreme Heat Events
The working group is also focusing on preparing communities for extreme heat events. In 2012, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, in partnership with Center for Disease Control, conducted a heat vulnerability assessment identifying which neighborhoods and local populations face the greatest risk from extended periods of extreme heat. They are now working to communicate these risks and help prepare residents to face such severe weather.
Preserving the Natural Environment
Preserving and enhancing the natural environment is a key part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing our communities to adapt. Protecting our local wetlands, watersheds, urban forest, gardens, and green spaces helps prevent storm water runoff, protects the coast from erosion, and promotes natural cooling.
Participate in climate adaptation efforts in San Francisco:
- Learn about biodiversity in San Francisco.
- Help build green infrastructure by volunteering with the Sidewalk Garden project.
- Strengthen San Francisco's urban forest by planting trees with Friends of the Urban Forest.
- Get your neighborhood prepared by participating in the Neighborhood Empowerment Network.
- Volunteer with the Recreation and Park Department’s Natural Areas Program.
- Volunteer with the Presidio Trust to help preserve the Presidio.
- If you see a damaged street tree, note the street address and call 311 to anonymously report it.