Commercials, TV and radio talk shows, store marquees, labels on appliances, newspapers, weather reports, magazine covers, classroom assignments – news and information about climate change is widespread. And yet, who in the Santa Clarita Valley is greatly concerned? After all, we haven’t experienced the eight major hurricanes, the 200-mile destructive tornado, the recent urban wildfire in Boulder County, Colorado, or the apocalyptic fires of northern California. Sure, it was HOT this year, our hills were parched and sparks from vehicles could start a fire on our freeway borders in a heartbeat. But how concerned should we be? What can we tolerate?
At www.plus2c.org, you can view SCV climate conditions, and the changes after 2 degrees and 4 degrees Celsius atmospheric increase. A research team from the University of California at Merced, the University of Montana, Rocky Mountain Research Station and Gage Cartographic, developed this tool using detailed spatial climate analogs to study potential shifts in ecoregions and biomes. Simply put, they found regions that model the changes the SCV can expect with increased temperatures.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that with the same rate of burning fossil fuels, the world will have warmed by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 and as much as 10 Celsius by the end of the century. This research is backed by scientists around the world. At a 2 Celsius increase, the SCV would be much more like Coahuila, Mexico; 59 more very warm days and nine very hot days. Coastal sage and chaparral would be gone. At an increase of 4 Celsius, the SCV would be more like Sonora, Mexico, with 82 more very warm days and 20 very hot days. Our landscape would be like the Sonoran Desert.
According to a map on the SCV Water website, as of Jan. 6, most of California is still experiencing severe or extreme drought. Although the recent rain mitigated SCV’s extreme condition, our area is still listed as experiencing moderate drought. No rain forecast any time soon and many days of drying winds, so the relief is temporary; weather is a short-term atmospheric condition and climate is experienced over a long time. According to L.A. County records, Santa Clarita had only 2.61 inches of rain from July 2020 to July 2021. We frequently experience months without any precipitation. Fires frequently break out in Newhall Pass, Acton and Agua Dulce. The Tick Fire in 2019 burned 4,600 acres and 22 structures, including a home in my neighborhood. We’ve escaped the tremendous losses experienced in Boulder County, but for how long?
While this description may seem tolerable to you, keep in mind climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall, flooding and drought in many regions. Although Santa Clarita is not a coastal city, most of us at least occasionally visit or vacation at coastal cities subject to sea level rise. Further, UCLA and UC Berkeley professors have determined that, in California, the ocean could inundate more than 400 industrial facilities with hazardous wastes by the end of the century, exposing residents to dangerous chemicals and polluted water.
Solutions to a problem must start with acknowledging that problem. A steadily rising global atmospheric temperature is one of the greatest problems we face. Be aware, learn, care. Walk and hike in our beautiful valley and surrounding hills. Check your carbon footprint to see where you can start – it’s an easy online search. Read about your candidates’ opinions on environment and consider your vote. Be part of the solution.