Learn About Climate Vulnerability
Assessing Climate Hazards and Vulnerability
While all Californians are exposed to some level of climate hazard, not all Californians are impacted to the same extent or in the same way. Understanding how individuals and communities prepare for, deal with, and recover from extreme weather events today will inform how PG&E continues to prepare for future climate hazards.
The climate hazards that affect many Californians include temperature, coastal flooding, precipitation, wildfire, and subsidence. Climate change has already begun to alter these hazards from historical conditions and changes are projected to increase significantly in the coming decades across the Region. Increases in air temperature, sea-level rise, more widespread and severe coastal flooding, and changes in precipitation are of particular concern. The following information provides a high level overview of the key hazards that will be assessed.
California is likely to experience more intense heavy precipitation and a greater number of large storms. Heavier precipitation can exacerbate flooding and increase the risk of landslides. Droughts are likely to become longer and more severe due to increases in temperature and decline in Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack.
Coastal Flooding/Sea Level Rise
Coastal flooding hazards (i.e. inundation from storms under future sea level conditions) are a particular concern. As sea levels rise—plausibly by more than a half-meter by 2050—parts of coastal California could see more widespread and more severe coastal and bay shore flood exposures during storms, especially at king tides.
The interactions of various climate-driven events may lead to cascading or compounding impacts, in which a hazard is exacerbated or multiplied by other hazards. In California, combinations of greatest concern include wildfire scarred landscapes that are more susceptible to precipitation-driven landslides, and extreme heat occurring during wildfire driven outages.
PG&E's Climate Vulnerability Assessment
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has directed each of the state’s investor-owned utilities (including PG&E) to develop a Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA). Understanding how climate hazards or energy services intersect with individual safety, community resilience, and adaptive capacity is crucial to PG&E's investment in a climate resilient energy system. In support of this process, each utility is required to develop a Community Engagement Plan (CEP). The CEP provides “a framework for how PG&E and climate-vulnerable community stakeholders may work together to build mutual trust and engage in authentic and meaningful exchange regarding the expected climate resilience of the energy system and building community resilience through the energy system.” The CEP will be updated every 4 years.
The CVA community engagement process is an opportunity for PG&E to practice engagement that moves beyond informing and consulting community to involving and collaborating with community. Informed by Resilient Together Advisory Group (RTAG) members' participation and robust community engagement, the CVA is a critical first step in creating climate adaptation plans that will help PG&E continue to provide much of California with safe, clean, reliable, affordable energy into the climate-altered future.
PG&E looks forward to working with all community members, communities that are most climate-vulnerable, and the organizations that represent them to understand how this process can best serve their energy access and climate-related needs. PG&E's goals are:
Sharing information with the communities PG&E serves about how climate change is expected to impact the resilience of the energy system.
Learning how some of its most vulnerable customers are experiencing the impacts of increasingly frequent and severe climate-driven hazards and understanding how PG&E might contribute to customer resilience through the energy system.
Fostering long-term relationships and building trust with the communities served by PG&E by engaging, collaborating, and sharing ownership of the process, to ensure meaningful community involvement for this immediate project and into the future.
Defining Climate-Vulnerable Communities
PG&E serves a geographically large and ecologically and sociologically diverse area. Communities served by PG&E may differ substantially from one another other both in their exposures to climate change hazards as well as in their adaptive capacity (meaning their ability to withstand and recover from climate change impacts). In many cases, lower-income and historically disadvantaged communities tend to face the greatest risks from climate change. This disadvantage stems from multiple factors, ranging from (but not limited to): disproportionate likelihood of low-income communities to be located within flood zones; heat waves amplified by neighborhoods with more pavement and less green space; and the basic challenge of adapting to major change given these communities’ more limited financial resources.
One of the goals of Resilient Together is to better understand how some of its most vulnerable communities are experiencing the impacts of increasingly frequent and severe climate-driven hazards. Consistent with the CPUC’s Environmental and Social Justice (ESJ) Action Plan goals and Disadvantaged Community Advisory Group (DACAG) Guiding Principles, a community may be considered a “disadvantaged vulnerable community (DVC)” based on the following CPUC-defined criteria:
The 25% highest scoring census tracts according to the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen); these scores represent areas that are “disproportionately burdened by, and vulnerable to, multiple sources of pollution;
All California tribal lands;
Census tracts with median household incomes less than 60% of state median income;
Census tracts that score in the highest 5% of Pollution Burden within CalEnviroScreen, but do not receive an overall CalEnviroScreen score due to unreliable public health and socioeconomic data.