Stories in California

Climate Change: Two Futures. One Choice.

The Nature Conservancy has a plan for a climate resilient California.

Split image of a burning forest on one side and a healthy forest on the other to illustrate climate change.
Climate Change Two Futures. One Choice © TNC

The Legislature Reasserts CA’s Climate Leadership 

August 31, 2022—In the final days of the 2022 Legislative session, CA lawmakers took unprecedented actions that gave rise to an ambitious set of new climate measures. We commend the authors of these bills and Gov. Newsom for advancing CA’s leadership to address climate change. To meet the urgency of the climate crisis before us, we must continue to push forward with ambition to protect both people and nature.  Read the full statement.

—Jay Ziegler, Director of External Affairs & Policy for California

The Nature Conservancy has a vision for a climate resilient California, and we have a plan to start making it a reality.

Last year, the state of California put an unprecedented amount of funding toward natural resources and climate resilience. This was a critical step, but money without action is worthless, and our state is not mobilizing fast enough to protect itself. It’s time to turn money into results on the ground.

California can only lead the world in climate action by proving what is possible here at home.

At TNC, we look at California as one ecological system. We determine what places and processes are critical to sustain nature and people, and we take action to ensure they can adapt to a changing climate. This is how we developed our California Climate Resilience Plan. The plan spans the length of our state, and it is built to address four major climate impacts: Biodiversity Loss, Drought, Megafires and Sea Level Rise.

While climate change is already here in California, the good news is, there’s a lot we can do right now to make our state resilient. But we need to move. TNC and our partners have shovel-ready projects in the pipeline. The Nature Conservancy has a plan, and California has the resources to make it a reality. Let’s do this.

Explore Our Plan

Half of a fox on the right side of the image and no fox on the left side. Text says, 'there is a future where we are not the only dominant species'.
BIODIVERSITY There is a future where we are not the only dominant species. © TNC

California made a historic commitment to protect 30% of its natural lands by 2030, but where and how they are protected and managed is just as important as how much we protect. 

Biodiversity | Budget & Policy

The Problem—Shortcutting 30x30: Biodiversity isn’t just a list of California’s species; it's the web of life that makes California run. But the web is breaking, and our State’s draft 30x30 plan needs to prioritize investment in the most biodiverse and least protected places to ensure greater resilience in the face of climate change. It is critical that the plan protects ecosystems that are disappearing as well as communities that have been overlooked. People and wildlife need good habitat to survive.

TNC’s Plan—Full-Spectrum Ecosystem Protection: Ensure the State’s 30x30 strategy protects the most biodiverse places covering all major habitat types throughout the state using science-based methods to guide decision making. 

California Climate Resilience Plan | Biodiversity

There is a future where we are not the only dominant species. Together we can plan for it.


The Problem—Fragmented Wildlife Habitat: Habitat fragmentation poses one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. When transportation infrastructure and development severs habitat, ecological processes are disrupted and native species blink out. This isn’t good for transportation either. Our transportation infrastructure is extremely vulnerable to climate impacts like flooding and fire, and collisions between wildlife and cars cost the state an estimated $200 million per year. 

TNC’s Plan—Networking Statewide Habitat: Conserve and restore wildlife habitat connectivity by strategically protecting at-risk lands, restoring degraded habitat and developing vegetated wildlife crossings over/under busy traffic corridors. We’ve developed the comprehensive web-based Omniscape tool to model the movement of species in a warming climate and guide conservation priorities in support of shifting patterns. Read more about our model in papers published in Ecological Applications and Conservation Science and Practice.

California Climate Resilience Plan | Wildlife Connectivity

There is a future where wildlife doesn't have to compete with cars to cross the road. Together we can plan for it.

A dead fish in a river bed on the left and flowing water on the right. Text says. 'There is a future where drought isn't an emergency'.
Water There is a future where drought isn’t an emergency. © TNC

It’s time to manage California’s water for the realities of climate change. 

Drought | Budget & Policy

  • 2021 Budget: Make $150M for WCB’s Stream Flow Enhancement Program available statewide.

    Last year the State dedicated $4.7 billion for water resilience. But the way that money is spent will determine whether the natural systems that provide California’s water fail or thrive. We have an incredible opportunity to invest in our natural infrastructure and pivot our focus to where it is needed most: protecting biodiversity and adapting our water system to a changed climate. Specifically, the $150 million for the Wildlife Conservation Board’s Stream Flow Enhancement Program should be available statewide, particularly focused on our coastal streams. 


  • 2022 Budget: Allocate $750M for drought resilience for people and nature.

    California needs additional funding to address the drought with at least $750 million in investments in safe drinking water, sustainable groundwater management and water for fish and wildlife. Top funding priorities include:

    • $125 million for the Wildlife Conservation Board’s Inland Wetlands Conservation Program

    • $50 million for the Department of Fish and Wildlife for migratory birds

    • $25 million to establish a Drought Section at the State Water Resource Control Board

    • $50 million for the Department of Conservation's Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program

The Problem—Drought Response: In times of severe drought, nature gets hit hardest, and in 2021, California had the driest year in four decades. The only way to protect our freshwater supplies in the long term, is to protect the ecosystems that sustain them. Our state needs a coordinated drought response that doesn’t destroy freshwater ecosystems. 

TNC’s Plan—Drought Section: TNC is working with a coalition of partners to install a drought office on the State Water Board that monitors freshwater ecosystem health and makes decisions based on long term water sustainability. 

California Climate Resilience Plan | Drought

There is a future where drought isn’t an emergency. Together we can plan for it.

A burned forest on the left and a healthy forest on the right. Text reads, 'there is a future where fire protects our forests'.
MEGAFIRES There is a future where fire protects our forests. © TNC

It took 100 years to destroy the health of Sierra forests, but with the right resources, we can restore our forests in mere decades. 

Megafires | Budget & Policy

The Problem—Megafires: Thanks to Smokey Bear and a century of fire suppression, California’s Sierra forests are dangerously overgrown. Now, trees are packed together at up to five times their natural density, and fires that should regenerate our forests explode into infernos that destroy them. These forests help provide 60% of our state’s developed water supply, and losing them would leave millions of people without clean drinking water. 

TNC’s Plan—Landscape-Scale Forest Restoration: Science shows Ecological Forest Restoration works. Now we need to restore the Sierra Nevada on a million-acre scale, and we need a budget to match. 

Aerial view of tree mortality from fire after different types of forest restoration. Thinning only resulted in dead trees, thinning and prescribed fire in live trees, no treatment in scorched earth.
Thinning and Prescribed Fire Aerial view shows the differences in tree mortality after the Bootleg Fire resulting from different types of forest restoration. © Steve Rondeau

The Problem—Roadblocks to Prescribed Fire: Science shows that prescribed fire is vital to curbing catastrophic megafires in California. But practitioners can’t procure the liability insurance needed to conduct prescribed burns. If we’re going to restore our forests at a pace and scale that can make a difference for megafires, the insurance process has to change. 

TNC’s Plan—Prescribed Fire Claims Fund: Last year the State set aside $20 million to establish a prescribed fire claims fund, and TNC is working with Senator Dodd on SB 926 to implement this funding. SB 926 needs your support. 

California Climate Resilience Plan | Megafires

There is a future where fire protects our forests. Together we can plan for it.

A collapsed coastline on the left and a road without degradation on the right. Text reads, 'There is a future where nature protects our coasts from sea level rise.'
COASTAL RESILIENCE There is a future where nature protects our coasts from sea level rise. © TNC

With a projected five feet of sea level rise, California is on track to lose massive amounts of land to the ocean, but nature could change that equation. 

Sea Level Rise | Budget & Policy

The Problem—Sea Level Rise: California’s coasts are already vulnerable to coastal flooding and erosion, but sea level rise will make those threats catastrophic. Gray infrastructure degrades, but natural infrastructure regenerates itself. If we invest in coastal habitats like wetlands, we can protect California’s natural coastline and make communities more resilient, even with five feet of sea level rise. 

TNC’s Plan—Natural Buffers for Resilience: Coordinate statewide coastal wetland conservation and restoration, invest in the protection of future coastal habitat and help communities already in harm’s way adapt. 

Split image with an unhealthy ocean on the left and a healthy one on the right. Text overlay reads 'There is a future where oceans thrive instead of collapse.'

Oceans make our lives possible, from our climate to the air we breathe. But our oceans are under threat.

Ocean Crises | Budget & Policy

The Problem—Kelp Loss: Beginning in 2013, a perfect storm of climate-driven events resulted in the loss of 96% of our state’s kelp forests on California’s north coast. This loss has been devastating for nature and people alike as kelp forests support up to 1,000 California species and are critical to coastal economies. 

TNC’s Plan—Strategic Restoration: TNC is at the leading edge of developing a science-driven restoration toolkit and roadmap to restore kelp forests, but we need to act fast to put it into action at scale. Our roadmap is driven by science and would ensure that priority sites with both the highest likelihood of success and benefits to communities are prioritized. This effort will require both targeted and consistent funding, as well as the streamlining of regulations to support timely restoration at scale. 

The Problem—Climate-Driven Fisheries Disasters: Nowhere is climate change felt more strongly than in our oceans. Marine heatwaves and acidification have wiped out whole California species, but our state rarely has the data to respond to crises before it’s too late. 

TNC’s Plan—Climate-Ready Fisheries Management: To protect California’s fisheries, we need to make information available in real time. It’s time to digitize California’s data collection systems, including fishermen logbooks. The Marine Life Management Act set out a vision for healthy fisheries, now it’s time to make that promise a reality by funding the technology to move us away from paper-based data collection and into the 21st century. 

California Climate Resilience Plan | Oceans

There is a future where oceans thrive instead of collapse. Together we can plan for it.


The Clock Is Ticking


Climate Big Picture | Policy

When it comes down to it, climate change is a human rights issue. If we don’t enlist nature in this fight, California’s people will have to face the worst effects of climate change alone, and that’s not a fight we can win.  

The Nature Conservancy’s plan is ambitious, but when it comes to implementation, the state won’t have to work alone. TNC can match state funds with federal and private dollars to leverage resources to greater effect. We also have a network of practitioners on the ground ready to do this work.

There is a future where California adapts to climate change. 

It’s time to make it a reality.