Bay Area Voters Agreed To First-Of-Its Kind Climate Adaptation Tax

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ERIC RISBERG
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ERIC RISBERG

The Bay Area has long been a bastion of environmental action, but this week locals outdid themselves when they approved an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind tax to remove pollution from their bay and create habitats to fight sea level rise.

With more than 65 percent approval, Measure AA is the first region-wide local tax San Francisco Bay voters have passed, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. Aside from pollution removal projects, the tax will fund nature-based flood protections through wetlands, and habitat restoration along the Bay’s edge and creeks. In doing so, it will nearly double the 40,000 acres of tidal marsh that remain there. The San Francisco Bay area had 200,000 acres of wetlands before the gold rush kicked off development.

Bay Area Voters Will Decide Next Month If They Want To Pay To Adapt To Sea Level RiseClimate by CREDIT: shutterstock California has long been a leader in tackling climate change. But in June, voters in…thinkprogress.orgStaving off sea level rise is a major issue for many California’s coastal cities. The sea is projected to rise some three feet over the next hundred years, according to National Research Council research, leaving the coast more vulnerable to daily wave action and storm surges. Sea level rise expected in much of California is higher than the average projected sea level rise for the world. Such changes could cause the incidence of extreme water heights in the San Francisco Bay area to balloon from about nine hours a decade, to hundreds of hours per decade by 2050.

But Measure AA, which amounts to a parcel tax — a kind of property tax — of $12 a year (that’s less than the cost of a California burrito), will also create habitat for salmon and other native species that have been struggling in California. Migrating birds are poised to benefit, too. The San Francisco Bay is a major stopover point along the Pacific Flyway migration route, a major route for migratory birds that extends from Alaska to Patagonia. That comes as more than 90 percent of California wetlands have been drained for human development. Over one million birds go through San Francisco at the height of migration, according to the conservation nonprofit National Audubon Society.

The initiative was criticized because it taxes everyone equally. This means large corporations like Google and individual homeowners will both pay the same amount despite having different property values. Still, Measure AA is expected to raise $500 million in the next 20 years for climate change adaption, an issue that not all coastal areas are considering a priority.

Florida Mayors Rush To Prepare For Rising SeasClimate by CREDIT: Shutterstock Cindy Lerner and Carlos Gimenez are, in many ways, typical local politicians. Both are…thinkprogress.orgIn Florida, for instance, legislators have been hesitant to allocate funds for climate adaptation, even though sea level rise threatens to overwhelm Miami before the end of the century. Last year, counties and municipalities asked the state government for $1 billion in funding for water projects, instead, the state legislature allocated $70 million, and Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), a climate change denier, vetoed half of the proposed projects.