CITYWIDE — More than eight in 10 Californians believe that climate change is happening, according to a recent survey prepared by Stanford University.
Clearly, Santa Monica, being next to the Pacific Ocean, will be heavily impacted so city officials are rushing to slow the change and address the negative impacts.
The survey results were released by the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change on which Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Santa Monica, serves as a chair. The survey said that 80 percent of Californians support government-imposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions caused by U.S. businesses.
Two-thirds of Californians believe that the U.S. should take action, regardless of what other countries do.
“I think the weather is going crazy bad,” said Santa Monica resident Stewart Schafer, an Australia-native. “I don’t think we are doing enough. We can do more. In Australia, we have a shortage of water reserves and as a result, we have restrictions on water usage.”
Australia also implements carbon taxes, which Schafer supports.
“Governments inform communities and (carbon taxes) work,” he said.
Renukah Hunter, of Culver City, believes that better education could help fight climate change.
“I don’t think humans are using resources to the best of their abilities due to a lack of communication and lack of knowledge,” she said as she visited Downtown on Friday.
Santa Monica has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent since 1990, said Shannon Parry, deputy sustainability officer for the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.
Because climate change is a global phenomenon, Santa Monica’s reduction isn’t enough to prevent negative impacts on the city.
The Office of Sustainability recently submitted an application for a state grant to study how sea-level rise would impact the city by the sea, Parry said.
Up and down the Southern California coast, the sea level is expected to rise five to 24 inches by 2050, according to a report by the National Research Council, but every community is impacted by the rise differently, Parry said.
“Because of the specifics of the geology of the Santa Monica Bay, we are protected a little bit from the immediate impacts of sea-level rise,” she said. “But our initial research was done years ago, so that’s why we’ve applied for this grant.”
City Hall’s application has been recommended for approval and it will be voted on later this week. The study could be completed by the end of 2014.
There are three approaches employed in response to sea-level rise, said Megan Herzog an Emmett/Frankel fellow in environmental law and policy at UCLA.
“There are protection strategies, like putting up a sea wall. You already see that a lot in Malibu,” she said. “It could be accommodation type strategies, where you’re trying to make the development more resilient. Things like making buildings along the coast have to be higher off the ground. Or there’s retreat types of strategies, where you try to channel development out of vulnerable zones along the coast.”
With the study pending, City Hall has yet to choose an approach in responding to sea-level rise. Response to climate change is a recent addition to the Office of Sustainability job description.
“The impact climate change adaptation is a new area for us,” Parry said. “We’ve been working in the realm of climate mitigation for that last three decades but we’re starting to look at climate adaptations differently.”
One example is the sea-level rise study. Another is the always-present Southern California issue of water usage.
The Sierra Nevadas, from which Santa Monica imports much of its water, is expected to see less precipitation in the coming year.
City Hall has a goal of generating as much water as the city uses by 2020.
Perhaps just as pressing is the potential for increased instances of coastal fog. In the next 30 to 50 years, temperatures are expected to go up 3 to 4 degrees in the city. That increase combined with a projected temperature rise to the east will cause more June gloom.
“Certainly, in a community where a significant portion of our economic vitality depends on the revenues from tourism, an increased incident of coastal fog will have a significant impact,” Parry said.
Waxman used the survey to call on his Congressional colleagues to develop clean energy technologies and start “listening to the scientists.”
The survey showed that at least 75 percent of the population in every state surveyed acknowledges the existence of climate change. States surveyed included traditionally left-leaning ones like Massachusetts and New York, as well as more conservative or red states like Oklahoma, Texas and South Dakota.
“This new report is crystal clear,” Waxman said. “It shows that the vast majority of Americans — whether from red states or blue — understand that climate change is a growing danger. Americans recognize that we have a moral obligation to protect the environment and an economic opportunity to develop the clean energy technologies of the future.”