Governor unveils climate change strategy report

SAN FRANCISCO

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger chose Treasure Island for his news conference because it is an example of what could happen as sea waters rise.

"This means our highways and certain buildings will be threatened; in fact, within a century, Treasure Island, this place where we are right now, could be totally underwater," Schwarzenegger said.

It is not just Treasure Island. San Francisco is expected to be the most vulnerable place in California, surrounded on three sides by water.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy is the result of an executive order signed last month by the governor to get state agencies to start preparing for policies to address coastal flooding, changes in precipitation and future infrastructure needs.

A map released Wednesday shows places that could be underwater if the sea rises 4.5 feet. They include the entire Mission Bay area, home to gleaming new Life Science Research labs and high-rise condominiums and much of the Embarcadero.

The projected damage to property could run as high as $24 billion in San Mateo County to $5 billion in San Francisco.

Google has produced a way for people to visualize what lies ahead in its global mapping program, Google Earth.

"People have trouble understanding what they can't see; Google Earth is particularly successful at letting you see what the world really is, not what you think it is, what you see around the corner, but what's really happening across the globe," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said.

The state and the nation will not have unlimited resources to prevent water from encroaching the land, so an important focus will be whether or not California allows nature to take over some of the land or what it will decide needs to be saved.

Those are tough decisions a special task force of 23 people will tackle in the year ahead.

"What this task force is about is trying to identify some of these strategies where we can probably in the most economically feasible ways address as much of this as possible," Bay Area Council member Jim Wunderman said.

San Mateo County's projected $24 billion loss is not only highest in the Bay Area, but also in the entire state.

The cost of saving or replacing SFO and some shoreline communities like Foster City will be huge.

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