'Adapting' to Climate Change

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By Maria Fotopoulos

Maria is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow who focuses on the impacts of growth on biodiversity. Find her on Twitter | in | FB.

The writer’s views are her own.


July 1, 2012

LOS ANGELES – There’s yet another report, “Mid-Century Warming in the Los Angeles Region,” indicating that the planet will become a more inhospitable place for carbon-based units.

It would be nice to believe that this report will contribute to the pile of mounting data, reports, anecdotal evidence, etc. addressing climate change, overpopulation, sustainability, species extinction, etc. and that, COMBINED, they will ultimately lead us – soon – to that critical mass on these interconnected issues – and positive change.

But the more I read and the more I see “business as usual,” my inner Debbie Downer sees few real signs to engender optimism. (The tepid offerings under “What can Angelenos do” in the Mid-Century Warming report didn’t help inspire confidence either.) The just finished Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which appears to have gotten a thumbs down for success, seems to underscore a real lack of progress on these issues too.

This new report for the L.A. region from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the C-Change.LA Website skews towards the inevitability of negative change and that the best we can do in the L.A. region is develop “climate resiliency” and brace for some future that will be, at a minimum, “challenging.” (It also has brought out the usual skeptics and debaters of whether the problem is “manmade” or part of Earth’s natural cooling/heating tendencies – see a sampling after the Santa Monica Patch coverage.)

The study, which predicts climate change right down to the neighborhood level, concludes that temperatures here will be hotter in the years ahead. The increase is expected to average 4 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit during the 2041 to 2060 period for a tripling of the number of extremely hot days (above 95 degrees) in L.A.’s downtown and a quadrupling of those types of days at higher elevations and valleys.

"Places like Lancaster and Palm Springs are already pretty hot areas, and when you tack on warming of 5 to 6 degrees, that's a pretty noticeable difference," said Professor Alex Hall who headed the study.

Added the study’s author, “If humans are noticing it, so are plants, animals and ecosystems. These places will be qualitatively different than they are now. The changes our region will face are significant, and we will have to adapt." (The phrase, “Adapt or die,” springs to my mind, as I ponder all the heat-related health problems from higher temperatures.)

Hall said too that he was “a little taken aback” by the level of warming, even against a scenario of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In typical mode of putting the best spin on a bad situation, our mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, said, “With good data driving good policies, we can craft innovative solutions that will preserve our environment and quality of life for the next generation of Angelenos.”

This is the same mayor who can’t even keep our roads up to a minimum standard, but, he’s a politician, so his timeframe probably is just as long as to the next election. In other words, I’m doubtful if he’s really invested in looking towards mid-century.

My overall take from the report? We’ve waited too long to make the changes we should have, such as reducing and stabilizing population size, and taking real steps towards living sustainably. So we’re just going to have to “deal with it.” And per usual, there will be winners and losers, rather than a good quality of life for all.


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