Marin and Sonoma are neighboring California counties located in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area. Marin is known for its natural beauty, Sonoma for its agriculture, and particularly for its wine production. The two counties have a combined population of around 750 thousand people, with Sonoma having about two thirds of that. Sonoma and Marin are some of the richest and most expensive counties in the United States with Marin #8 on CNBC’s list of America’s richest counties. They are both extremely diverse ecologically, home to ocean beaches, salt marshes, coastal scrub, grasslands, chaparral, redwood forest, and oak and pine forests.
Due to climate change, the Bay’s sea level has increased by 8 inches in the last 100 years. In 2015-2016, El Nino storms created waves with more than 50% more energy than average, causing unprecedented beach erosion, compounding the effects of sea level rise. The Bay is also experiencing more “boom and bust” rain cycles with very wet and very dry years. Although the drought in 2015-2016 forced moisture levels down to the lowest it’s been in 1,000 years, Marin and Sonoma are still seeing extreme flooding exacerbated by storm surges, as well as sea level rise. Floods and storms are causing significant damage not just to public and private property, but to beaches, wetlands, and riparians areas already under attack by the changing climate. Storm surges have caused overflow at wastewater treatment facilities, which can spill into the sea harming people and wildlife alike. Storms and rising seas also threaten electrical grids and natural gas pipelines bringing greater socioeconomic and health inequality.
The Bay Area which Marin and Sonoma are a part of are also already experiencing a significant rise in temperature and the harmful effects that follow such a rise. Since 1950, the temperature has risen by 1.7°F creating more energy usage, even along the traditionally cool coast. This increase in energy usage leads to adverse health effects from increased pollution and disease.
What’s more, over the past 80 years, the Bay Area has seen steadily more large fires with no end in sight. Fires are devastating to threatened upland birds, mammals and amphibians. The combination of changing rain cycles, temperatures, and fire frequency is causing animals to get out of sync with their environments, leading to population declines.
Through 2016, Marin’s Climate Action Plan created a 21% reduction of emissions below 1990 levels and continues to implement programs to lessen its carbon footprint. The county has a webpage called Drawdown: Marin providing information to county residents about Marin’s actions to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions. In early 2020, Marin hosted a community workshop and meeting for the Marin Climate Action Plan update, during which citizens helped identify the county’s path forward with a vision towards 2030 and beyond.
Marin County was also the first in the state to enroll all of its county and city accounts in Marin Clean Energy’s, a 100% renewable electricity program begun in October of 2018. Marin Clean Energy supplies customers with 50% to 100% renewable energy as a green alternative to PG&E. Marin Clean Energy has three energy packages so customers can choose how their energy is generated. The least sustainable plan uses 60% renewables, and the other two plans use 100% renewable energy. Marin consumes 51% of its energy in non-residential sectors and 49% in the residential sector.
Sonoma’s climate plan, Climate Action 2020 and Beyond, is focused on putting the county on a path towards a goal of emissions at 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The plan also provides information about local climate hazards and what Sonoma County communities can do to adapt. The plan attacks greenhouse gas emissions in a multitude of ways, focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy use, reduction of travel demand, low carbon transportation, capture of methane from landfills, recycled water use, reduced livestock emissions, sustainable agriculture, and even carbon sequestration. Sonoma’s Regional Climate Protection Authority is helping the county reach its goals by leading plan implementation and supporting local actions through grant funding, research, technical assistance, outreach, and education.
87% of eligible electricity users in Sonoma use Sonoma Clean Power, a non-profit public agency based in Santa Rosa, Sonoma’s largest city, supplying them with 42% hydroelectric energy, 23% wind power, 18% geothermal, 7.6% solar, and 10% biomass combined with power from California’s main power grid. The rest of Sonoma’s residents rely on Pacific Gas and Electric’s power, which uses 78% clean energy. Sonoma’s energy goes to 57% non-residential uses and 43% residential uses.