Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise

Climate adaptation refers to the actions taken to improve a community’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. Climate adaptation planning is most effective at the local level, so it is imperative that the City of Palo Alto take robust steps to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Effective adaptation planning is a long-term process that deals with uncertainty, allowing for immediate action when necessary and adjusting to changing conditions and new knowledge. The most imperative climate impacts affecting Palo Alto are related to sea level rise in the San Francisco Bay and wildfire vulnerability.

Sea Level Rise

A person stands in a foot of flood water at the Baylands


The State of California anticipates that relative sea level rise projections stemming from GHG emissions and related climate change pose significant economic, environmental and social risks to communities along the San Francisco Bay Shoreline, including the City of Palo Alto. Sea level rise in San Francisco Bay is anticipated to range between three feet to more than ten feet by 2100 with rising tides likely thereafter. In Palo Alto, many City services and infrastructure that are essential to the City’s public health, safety, and economy are located within areas that are predicted to be inundated by Bay water if adaptation measures are not implemented.

Wildfire Hazards

Hiking trail lined up with oak trees in Foothills Park


Preparation for and protection from wildfires is another important aspect of Palo Alto's climate adaptation planning. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of wildfire events, especially here in California. On the West Coast, it is projected that an average 1 °C temperature increase could increase the median burned area per year as much as 600 percent in some forests.

Climate Adaptation and the S/CAP

The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) guides Palo Alto's sustainability and emissions reduction strategy. The goals and key actions for Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise focuses primarily on sea level rise and secondly on wildfire protection. Because climate adaptation planning requires a forward-thinking approach, our climate adaptation goals include planning for seal level rise and minimizing wildland fire hazards. In addition to the adaptation areas addressed in the S/CAP, the City also pursues many climate protection and adaptation strategies, including addressing extreme weather and natural disasters such as floods.


Learn More

Explore the City of Palo Alto's initiatives that help protect the City from the impacts of climate change.