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“As Angelenos, we can no longer act in silos if we are to appropriately plan for an issue as complicated as climate change.”

Climate Change and Los Angeles 

The Greater Los Angeles Area contains a population of over 12 million in a basin of 1,668 square miles. As a Mediterranean climate – a region with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters – climate change threatens to exacerbate problems of water scarcity in this already water scarce region. At the same time, increasing populations and developing economies require adequate protection against the hazards of floods, droughts and sea level rise – hazards that are expected to become increasingly variable and severe because of the higher stakes and changing climate. Balancing the need to grow with the need to protect will be a challenge.

A report funded by the City of Los Angeles projecting mid-21st century warming in the Los Angeles region predicts that temperatures will rise by an average of 4-5°F by the middle of this century, tripling the number of extremely hot days in the downtown area and quadrupling the number in the valleys and at high elevations. Concurrently, a recent National Research Council report contends that sea levels in the Southern California region will rise by 2-12 inches by 2030 (relative to 2000 levels), 5-24 inches by 2050, and 17-66 inches by 2100.

These predicted changes will produce impacts at varying scales on the water resources of Southern California. They will alter regional hydrologies, with precipitation increasingly falling as rain instead of snow and with greater periodicity and “flashiness” of precipitation events. Local supplies will be impacted by these same changes in precipitation patterns. Sea level rise and associated saltwater intrusion, along with decreased water availability from import sources outside the Los Angeles region, will force increased reliance on groundwater resources and will challenge basin managers. Conservation, though highly successful in Southern California, will be further strained by additional irrigation and residential demand, and greater energy generation associated with a growing urban core.

At the 2012 The Mediterranean City Conference, Dr. Jack Sahl, Director of Environmental Affairs for Southern California Edison said it best “…[when it comes to climate change] we aren’t talking about Mediterranean cites, we are talking about post-Mediterranean cities.” Indeed, there are many question marks when it comes to climate change.

The Los Angeles Regional MC-4 Network

The Greater Los Angeles region sits at the crossroads of an expanding population and an increasingly uncertain climate future. Both issues will put stress on our region’s natural resources while making us rethink the way we live in a city and as part of a community. To adapt to the stresses, the region as a whole must incorporate resiliency into their future planning. Unfortunately, this is not the standard for planning across the region. Adaptation to climate change issues is not largely viewed as a critical issue throughout the region and often takes a back seat to immediate planning benefits. Furthermore, the range of resources available among the more than 100 cities and additional incorporated areas that make up the Greater Los Angeles Area means that most small municipalities lack the resources to do the work necessary to incorporate adaptation planning strategies.

These urban communities need be able to access the latest strategies that have been developed and implemented by other communities facing similar impacts to their resources and populations. They need to be able to engage with their local, regional, state, national, and international counterparts to drive the conversation toward localized, urban resilience planning. And they need to share with their peers their own expertise in building vibrant, resilient cities of the future.

A university research center invested in the communities making up the Greater Los Angeles Area, CURes is best suited to lead the regional effort at climate change adaptation. Building on the work that the Council for Watershed Health has accomplished, we continue to bring together a global network of practitioners, policymakers, business leaders, and academics from Mediterranean-climate cities across the globe to support cities such as Los Angeles as they move towards building a more resilient city. We have played a key role in the discussions regarding the needs of Greater Los Angeles and we are the contact point to global efforts that will help to address those needs.  We can help Greater Los Angeles benefit from these global partnerships and from concrete strategies and resources that will sustain healthy, sustainable communities that promote ecological resilience, economic competitiveness, and social equality.