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 www.environmentaldefense.org/hotLA,
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:
- Maintaining strong emissions controls to reduce ozone-smog levels and
improve air quality;
- Cooling the urban environment by planting more trees, establishing
more parks and increasing reflective surfaces;
- Incorporating climate change into long-term water resource planning,
increased inter-basin coordination and flexibility in operations; and
- 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:
- The Bush administration should work to improve, rather than reject, the
Kyoto Protocol on global warming;
- 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
- 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
- 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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