I don’t blame Al Gore and Bill McKibben – they’re wonderful men who’ve done more than anyone to alert Americans to climate issues. But the way they talk about climate stinks.
They focus, too often, on scary evidence. Melting glaciers. Melting sea ice. Floods and droughts. The theory is that a preponderance of facts will be so convincing, so irrefutable and urgent, that the public will act.
That method works for some folks. In fact, a recent Yale survey reveals that 30% of the public are so alarmed that they’d join a campaign to halt climate change.
But that message falls flat with the remaining 70% – over 200 million Americans.
Let me be explicit: middle America won’t be won over by scary stories or by inviting them to join the environmental movement’s end-of-the world cavalcade.
People want hope. And Climate Resolve believes there’s good cause to be hopeful.
Together, we can: 1) simultaneously prepare for climate impacts, 2) reduce our contributions to the problem, and 3) improve the quality of life today – and in the future. In so doing, we will create a more resilient Los Angeles that will thrive in the face of climate change.
Climate Resolve is working to accomplish all three goals all at once – by working with cutting-edge researchers to help shape exciting policy initiatives.
The way to win the climate argument is to embrace, not fear, the future.
With California’s drought taking center stage in the media lately, it’s important to recognize that all Angelenos and Californians alike can take immediate action to reduce water usage in our everyday lives. While LADWP offers incentives to remove water-sucking grass lawns, we want to show you some easy ways you can reduce your water usage starting right now.
Even if researchers can’t directly connect this drought with climate change, Californians can use this water emergency as a ‘dry run’ to help us plan for more water conservation in the future. The science is clear: as annual temperatures increase over the coming decades, Los Angeles will see lower annual snowpack and soil moisture — and it will be essential to conserve even more in the later part of the 21st century.
But, first, let’s clear the air about water usage in Los Angeles. Over the past few years, LA has become a leading example of policies and actions to reduce water usage while fostering sustainability in a major metropolitan area. Residents in the City of Los Angeles use an average of 152 gallons of water a day — which is below the state average of 196 gallons (not including agricultural uses). Throughout the region, these numbers vary from the lowest in Compton (106 gpd) to the high of Beverly Hills (285 gpd).
Although the region is ahead of the curve on water conservation, we do have one dirty secret you may have heard before: “Los Angeles imports its water from across the state and that’s not sustainable.” It’s true — Los Angeles imports 71% of its water. But, if that number seems high, consider that San Francisco imports over 99% of its water and New York City imports 100% of its water.
Most major cities, with their large and dense population, have to import water — and Los Angeles is no exception. But, climate studies are predicting hotter annual temperatures and less soil moisture in the coming decades — and everyone will be expected to conserve more water. Climate Resolve believes we can use this severe drought to re-double our efforts at reducing our water usage in preparation for the tough times ahead.
For the typical Angeleno, the biggest water-waster is right out our front doors – our lawns. If you own your home (and have a lawn) LADWP provides incentives — up to $2/sq ft to remove grass and turf and replace it with drought-resistant plantings.
While the tips below won’t make quite as big an impact on your water bill, we’ve selected a few simple ways to help further reduce your water — that you can start doing this minute. Take a look, and then share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter to show how they can join you in helping make California more resilient in the face of a changing climate.
The current lack of rain and snow is severe but California has seen this before. The current year closely resembles the drought of 1976-1977.
If you go back a few hundred years, the paleo-record shows that the Southwest experienced multi-decadal droughts — well before society started burning coal for energy.
The lack of a climate fingerprint, however, does not mean Californians can continue its wasteful ways. In fact, the current drought closely foreshadows reduced water supply that will be brought about by climate change in California.
Warmer temperatures, loss of snowpack, changes in soil moisture — these effects will be exacerbated by carbon pollution. Unequivocally, climate change will affect California’s water supply.
We can survive the current dry spell, even thrive, if we do these three things:
- Expand water conservation efforts;
- Expand use of recycled water; and
- Capture more rain (when it does rain).
Angelenos will soon have an opportunity to vote on these local water measures — watch for news in the near future.
The very measures we undertake today to survive the drought will help us manage climate impacts tomorrow.
Let’s get started.
Climate Resolve staff began the new year working with partners to improve biking and walking across the region at the Complete Streets Meeting hosted by the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative. The room was packed and there was a lively, thorough discussion about how LA’s regional transportation planning agency, Metro, can work with local agencies to improve access to transit hubs and safety for people walking and biking.
The meeting included presentations on how other regions, like San Diego and the Bay Area, have already integrated requirements for street designs that facilitate walking, bicycling and environmental improvements into transit and highway projects – and how LA and Metro may begin to take steps to facilitate a similar process – especially on such a large scale.
So, what’s the link between bicycling, walking and climate change? The answer is obvious: transportation is the largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions in California – and the more opportunities people have to bike or walk, the greater reduction we can see in GHG and CO2 levels throughout the region.
There has been some progress (over 100 miles of bike lanes striped by the City of LA last year!), but the streets today are not yet welcoming to pedestrians and beginning cyclists. Along with our partners, we’re looking ahead to the future – and laying the groundwork to build safer more attractive streets.
By building streets that accommodate all modes — instead of just cars — we can help people have a choice of how they want to travel around the region. Most transportation advocates call these “Complete Streets.” But, Climate Resolve is taking the success of Complete Streets and adding additional environmental benefits like trees and cool pavements — to make “Cool and Complete Streets.” These additional features will help reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, making it more pleasant to stroll or cycle down streets and reduce cooling bills for the surrounding buildings. By creating cooler streets, we’ll save Angelenos money and reduce energy usage — and with complete streets, we’ll see more people leave their cars at home further reducing green house gases and pollution.
A “Complete Street” rendering re-envisions an east LA neighborhood to be more accessible for pedestrians. Rendering Credit: Abby Jones / Courtesy Green LA
So, what’s next? We will continue our work with the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative and we have convened similar stakeholders to help ensure that a proposed Road Repair Bond for the the 2014 ballot will include these ideals and not just fill potholes and leave the streets as they were designed 50 years ago. Keep an eye out for more on this exciting topic in the coming months — we will be working hard to craft this legislation along with City Council before the June 2014 deadline.