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What’s in store for SLO County?

Uncertainty was an underlying theme of a discussion about climate change and its anticipated impact on San Luis Obispo County.

County supervisors heard a report Tuesday by project coordinator Kate Meis with the state Local Government Commission about a yearlong study examining how climate change is expected to affect life in the county in coming decades.

Researchers predict that climate change will locally bring hotter, drier and longer summers, water shortages and accelerated sea level rise, among other changes. These, in turn, will cause a variety of public health problems, such as increases in infectious disease and air pollution, said Penny Borenstein, county health officer.

“By identifying and addressing underlying vulnerabilities early, decision makers in San Luis Obispo can increase the resilience of the community, and the resources it depends on, to climate change,” the report concluded.

The county is already starting to deal with some of the impacts of climate change through a plan that seeks to reduce greenhouse-gas emission and other goals. The Local Government Commission report will help inform that process, said Kami Griffin, assistant county planning director.

“I don’t think the timing of this could be any better,” added Supervisor Jim Patterson.

However, the exact impacts of climate change are not known and predictions vary widely. For example, sea level rise that is already occurring has varied considerably along the Pacific Coast, said Ed Waage, a Pismo Beach city councilman.

“The science is not perfect and not anywhere near complete,” said Charlie Whitney with the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business. “Policies are being driven by politics rather than science.”

Some groups, including the County Farm Bureau and the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, complained that they did not have adequate opportunity to give input to the report.

Others pointed out that exactly predicting the impacts of climate change is not necessary to begin implementing policies to deal with them. The report is meant to be a starting point, Meis said.

“We were just hoping to start the discussion,” she said.

The most impassioned comment came from Atascadero resident and government watchdog Eric Greening, who said climate change needs to serve as a wake-up call.

“Humility and reverence is missing in this debate,” he said. “The way we live has got to change.”

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.

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