For so long, the term "global warming" has been just an abstract concept to me, bringing forth the image of a lone polar bear, floating aimlessly on a chunk of ice. This image has saddened me, yes, but it was a problem so far away that it quickly disappeared from my mind. Until now. Until I listened to a lecture given by Dr. Alex Hall, an associate professor in the Department of Atmosphere and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA. I now understand how global warming will affect not only me, but also the city of Claremont as a whole. Dr. Hall's research has taken the immense topic of global warming and broken it down enough that he can explain what it will mean to Los Angeles and the surrounding cities. In his presentation, Dr. Hall presented two scenarios. The first he called "business as usual," which predicts what the future will look like if the behavior of human beings on this planet does not change. The second scenario, called "mitigation," imagines a future where the world comes together and makes the drastic changes that will successfully lessen carbon emissions.
In the "business as usual" model, Dr. Hall has determined that by mid-century, the average temperature in Los Angeles will increase 4-5 degrees Fahrenheit. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. When Dr. Hall examined what the effects would be on inland cities, such as Claremont, he discovered a great increase in the number of days of extreme heat (with a temperature greater than 95 degrees). Currently, Claremont experiences, on average, about thirty such days. Dr. Hall predicted that by the end of this century, if we conduct "business as usual," Claremont will experience approximately 100 days of extreme heat per year. 100 days! That’s more than June, July and August combined. Personally, I start whining after only one or two days of extreme heat. Three months of it would ensure I'd be positively friendless. I know, I won't be around in eighty-seven years to suffer this heat, but my grandchildren will. Is this the kind of world I want to leave them? Absolutely not. Claremont would cease to be the Claremont we know and love. It would be hotter than Palm Springs is now and would become a place from which people escape during the summer months, or if they choose to stay, hole themselves up in air conditioned-houses. Imagine that electric bill. With these numbers staring me right in the face, I can no longer view global warming as the plight of the polar bear. I now see how it will affect my children and grandchildren. "Business as usual" shouldn’t even be listed as an option.
This leads me to the other scenario mentioned by Dr. Hall called "mitigation." If the world can come together and make the changes necessary to lower carbon emissions, there may be hope. We can’t stop global warming. Too much harm has already been done. But we can potentially lessen future damage. And isn’t that the ethical thing to do? Fortunately, Claremont is ahead of the game. We have our own Sustainable City Plan. The non-profit group, Sustainable Claremont, has created the Claremont Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP), which is helping homeowners reduce their energy consumption. We even have our own urban forest to take up carbon and keep us cool! But that’s only the beginning. There’s still a lot of work to be done. So, now we need you. It’s not enough that we bring our cloth bags to Trader Joe’s and Sprouts. We need to be actively involved if we want to change the future. To read more about the future of Los Angeles, visit http://c-change.la. Then vow to be part of the solution.
Demystifying Sustainability is an initiative of Sustainable Claremont (sustainableclaremont.org).