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Climate change expert advises council members

Climate change expert Dr. Glen MacDonald, director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, addressed the Pacific Palisades Community Council last Thursday evening regarding implications of climate change for the region.

  'Our goal in the very beginning is to try to educate everybody in the Palisades as to what is going on with climate change,' said Steven Boyers, a former council chair and now Area 7 representative.

  Boyers, a local attorney, took a proactive approach to the climate-change issue after attending an informational hearing in Santa Monica last October, 'Climate Change Adaptation: Impacts in Southern California,' held by State Sen. Fran Pavley.

  In October, the Community Council appointed a committee, chaired by Boyers, to educate the council and community on what adaptations can be made in response to climate change.

  'If we don't do something now, we won't be in a position to do something later,' Boyers explained.

  To help with the education efforts, the committee reached out to MacDonald, who is an international authority on the environmental effects of climate change and drought, and has been studying climate for nearly 30 years.

What We Know

  According to MacDonald, mankind has increased, through the burning of fossil fuels and through land clearance and other human-caused factors, the amount of CO2 and methane in the Earth's atmosphere since about 1800.

  Studying ice-core bubbles, most commonly from the polar ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland or from high mountain glaciers elsewhere, allows scientists to reconstruct a climate record.

  Measuring CO2 and methane in little bubbles trapped in the ice cores has enabled scientists to determine natural variations going back over 650,000 years.

  CO2 does go up and down by about 100 parts per million by volume though natural variations. The peak never got much above 280 to 290 parts per million by volume, according to MacDonald, over the past million years.

  Today that number has risen to 400 parts per million by volume. 'We've added about a third more CO2 and we are on our way to doubling it,' MacDonald said.

  Predicting what may happen down the road is not an exact science.

  'You have to deal with managing uncertainty,' he said. 'These are the best estimates based on climate models.''

Climate Warming Predictions

  All of the climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show that warming will occur as we continue to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

  Estimates of global temperature at the end of the 21st century show predictions of total annual warming of just over 4 degrees.

  Climate in the past two decades is warmer than at any other time in the past 2,000 years, and even if we were to stabilize things we've added enough greenhouse gases that the climate has already begun to change, MacDonald explained.

  There is some good news for Pacific Palisades. Thanks to its close proximity to the cool Pacific Ocean, the town will fare better than other parts of the nation; the predicted temperature rise is 1 to 3 degrees, based on low to moderate carbon output by the end of the century.

  MacDonald warned, however, that the Palisades is not an island and therefore will feel the effects of other areas like the Inland Empire and the Central Valley. July temperatures for these two large food-producing regions will be well over 100 degrees by the end of the century, he predicted.

To read the full article by Rebecca Howes click here.