Southern California Faces Increased Threat From Global Warming

A report released on June 19th by Environmental Defense paints a sobering picture

of the potentially severe consequences of global warming. Hot Prospects:

The Potential Impacts of Global Warming on Los Angeles and The

Southland is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential impacts

of global warming on the environment and the public health of Southern

California. The report, available at,

puts forward a plan to head off the worst potential problems.

“This report shows that global warming is as much about Compton as Kyoto,”

said Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense chief scientist. “The

data are clear: global warming in Southern California could lead to shrinking

beaches in Santa Monica, asthma attacks in the Valley, and heat waves in


“The climate forecast for L.A. isn’t pretty,” said Dr. Janine Bloomfield,

Environmental Defense senior scientist and project director for the report.

“Heavy storms, intense heat, and smoggy skies could become more common,

more severe and more damaging unless action is taken now.”

The report shows that global warming may have a wide variety of severe

impacts on Southern Californians including:

  • Weather: More storms, winter rainfall, hot summer days, possible

    increase in El Nino-type conditions.

  • Health problems: More smog, in areas such as the San Fernando

    Valley and Pomona, leading to increased respiratory illness. More heat

    waves. Increased potential for hantavirus.

  • Coastal lands: Heavy rainfall and strong waves from increased El

    Nino-type conditions affecting Malibu, Santa Monica and other coastal


  • Fires: Increased heat waves, wet winters could produce more fires in

    the Santa Monica, San Gabriel and other mountain ranges. Other

    factors, like wetter springs, could decrease the risk.

  • Coastal waters: Faster decline or shifts in range of numerous marine

    species, including California sea lions and sea otters.

  • Water Supply: Early or decreased flow from Sierra Nevada

    snowpack creates increased uncertainty and potential water shortages

    for some systems.

Environmentalists are not the only ones concerned about the effects of global

warming in the L.A. basin. Global warming can have serious implications for

the health of Southern Californians. “The hotter weather we expect as a result

of global warming promotes the formation of ozone, the major component of

smog,” said Dr. Kent Bransford, climate change consultant with Physicians for

Social Responsibility. “This increase in air pollution may trigger an increase of

asthma attacks, especially in the most vulnerable populations, children, the

elderly, and those with chronic illnesses.”

While sharply reducing fossil fuel emissions will go a long way to lessening the

impacts of global warming, some climate change is probably unavoidable. The

report outlines actions that can be taken now to lessen the potential impacts of

global warming. These include:

  1. Maintaining strong emissions controls to reduce ozone-smog levels and

    improve air quality;

  2. Cooling the urban environment by planting more trees, establishing

    more parks and increasing reflective surfaces;

  3. Incorporating climate change into long-term water resource planning,

    increased inter-basin coordination and flexibility in operations; and

  4. Planning and implementing appropriate beach and shoreline

    management, including the possibility of restoring natural sand supply.

In the long-term, changing the way we use and produce energy is necessary

to avoid the worst of these projections. The report recommends viable,

affordable and clean solutions, which can help reduce the severity of global

warming. “These findings are particularly timely since they provide immediate

and cost-effective solutions to California’s current energy problems,” said Jim

Martin, senior policy analyst for Environmental Defense.

Environmental Defense makes several recommendations for curbing global

warming emissions and promoting energy efficiency including:

  1. The Bush administration should work to improve, rather than reject, the

    Kyoto Protocol on global warming;

  2. Congress should close the Federal SUV Loophole. Increasing the fuel

    efficiency standards for SUVs, light trucks and other motor vehicles,

    would reduce global warming emissions by as much as 187 million tons

    per year;

  3. The CA state legislature should adopt the renewables portfolio

    standards bill (SB531) requiring electricity suppliers to provide at least

    20% of their electricity from renewables by 2010; and

  4. Make buildings more efficient by increasing insulation, installing solar

    panels on rooftops, and increasing the reflective surface of buildings to

    keep them cooler.

“There is a real chance for a win-win situation here. The right solutions to the

energy crisis, efficiency, clean energy sources, and conservation, are also the

best way to reduce emissions of global warming pollution,” Martin said.

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