City of Long Beach Climate Assessment Report Provides Argument for Action

Drought. Extreme heat. Rising sea levels, coastal flooding and deteriorating air quality. Not to mention declining public health and social vulnerability.

All of the above aren’t just expected to occur in the next 50 years and beyond; they’re already happening due to climate change, according to the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Dr. Jerry Schubel and the team of research scientists he collaborated with for the City of Long Beach Climate Resiliency Assessment Report.

The award-winning Long Beach scientist and leader in conservation teamed up with Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia Monday to brief the press on the report’s findings, which will be formally presented to the city council tomorrow. The assessment report, one year in the making, was announced by Garcia at last year’s State of the City and was paid for and organized entirely by the Aquarium of the Pacific. 


 

“Long Beach is a coastal city directly impacted by climate change,” said Garcia at the briefing today. “It’s an important issue, especially concerning what the next 50 years will look like. [...] Climate change is real. It’s happening. And it will have an impact on Long Beach.”

The report moves beyond a summary of potential climate-change induced outcomes to recommending city approaches for curbing its impacts, including creating a risk assessment based on the consequences of climate change, developing an adaptation plan, reviewing, adopting and implementing a plan and monitoring, reviewing and updating the plan.

Schubel took his time to outline the demographics that will be most impacted by climate change—the young, elderly and poor—and the importance of addressing it by both mitigation and adaptation.

“We have to mitigate [meaning reducing climate change’s impact], because of the long-term rising changes,” said Schubel. “But no matter how much we do to mitigate the effects, climate change requires adaptation.”

This means adapting to increased hot spells, drought and rising sea levels, according to Schubel and the assessment report.

Schubel said Long Beach is the perfect place to attempt both mitigation and adaptation, as the city is large enough to produce results that will be significant on a national level, but small enough to create a legislative agenda that can produce performance-based outcomes affecting the entire community.

However, Schubel’s optimism didn’t translate into the all-but-guaranteed effects of a shifting climate. He painted a picture of a dramatically new lifestyle created because of climate change, including:

  • Drought
  • An increase in temperatures and number of hot days
  • Deteriorating air quality, with public health implications
  • Rising sea levels and coastal flooding

Given the fact that 2016 is the West Coast’s fifth year of drought, Schubel said brief respite in water levels brought by El Niño won’t bring an end to the decreasing availability of water.

“Living with less water is something we’ll have to do,” he said.

Though the report commends the Long Beach Water Department (LBWD), the Port of Long Beach (POLB), and the City of Long Beach for its water conservation efforts, air quality improvement plans and the installation of “cooling centers” for people without air conditioning affected by heat waves, both Schubel and the assessment urged the city to do more to both mitigate and adapt to the changing environment.

Just how does climate change particularly alter the environment? According to Schubel, an increase in temperature actually changes the chemistry of the atmosphere.

“If everything remained the same, smog, the ozone layer, and particle pollution would get worse,” said Schubel, despite recent strides made in decreasing smog and particle pollution.

Most importantly, Schubel underscored how such environmental alterations would disproportionately affect vulnerable populations and those living along the 710.

“Temperature head waves have killed more people than earthquakes and other natural phenomena,” said Schubel. He pointed to the necessity for using alternative modes of transportation, such as biking and walking, in lieu of using cars or buses.

Rising sea levels also figured prominently in the report, as well as its direct impact on Long Beach.

While coastal flooding, as the city has seen regarding El Niño, is a temporary concern, coastal inundation is a likely occurrence in the near future—if not a real issue in the next few decades, then certainly so beyond the year 2015. According to Schubel, sea levels are rising an average of 3 millimeters a year.

The rising sea levels will figure prominently in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study, an agreement signed last month to evaluate the potential ramifications of a reconfigured breakwater, which was installed to protect the Port of Long Beach and homes along the Long Beach coast.


 

Taking a cue from other studies that have commissioned such a study, such as Santa Barbara and Oakland, Garcia underscored the importance of the study as a “first step” toward coming up with a comprehensive plan to address, mitigate and adapt to climate change, as the report assessment recommends. Pushing for the report preceded his signing the Compact of Mayors pledge in November, joining a coalition of mayors who are determined to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, enhance resilience to climate change and report transparently.


 

“We’re really leading the way,” said Garcia, though he was clear the city’s efforts were in their infancy. “Long-term, this is a very serious challenge for us.”

The City of Long Beach Climate Resiliency Assessment Report will be presented in full by Dr. Jerry Schubel to the Long Beach City Council at the Council Chambers tomorrow at 5:00PM.



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