How to Adapt to Climate Change
We know that Earth’s climate is changing. In the future we can expect intense hurricane and wildfire seasons, prolonged CHANGING droughts, and coastal flooding. What can we do?
Aquarium of the Pacific
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The magnitude and complexity of climate change makes it a daunting problem for people to wrap their heads around. The doom and gloom stories we hear can chip away at our hopes of ever overcoming this challenge. But there is hope, and we have the tools we need to make a difference.
It is becoming ever more apparent that this is a challenge we must tackle collectively—its scope and scale require people to come together across societal and ideological barriers to help create a better future for us all. We must start thinking about this problem in a new way.
What is Climate Resilience?
In recent months the term “climate resilience” has begun to enter the mainstream, popping up in the media and in messages from local city governments and institutions like the Aquarium.
Climate resilience means withstanding or recovering quickly from challenging weather or climate conditions. It means having a plan in place for the kinds of situations that will arise due to climate change, such as more frequent high-heat days and other extreme weather. It means knowing what to expect and what to do when it happens so that we might succeed in being prosperous and healthy in the face of change.
Even if every country around the world decided to stop emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, human activity has already changed our climate enough to affect our daily lives. At this point, we must continue to address the causes of climate change, but we must also prepare for its inevitable impacts.
We must adapt to a warmer, changing world that presents us with such threats as poorer air quality and rising sea level.
Impacts in Southern California
The impacts of climate change already being felt in Southern California are only predicted to increase in frequency and severity in coming years. We will likely see increasing numbers of high-heat days, longer and more intense periods of drought, rising sea levels and coastal flooding during storms, and poor air quality during hotter, sunnier days made, worse by more frequent wildfires and ground level ozone.
Ground level ozone is created when emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides interact with heat and sunlight. VOCs come from sources like gas-burning engines, paints, cleaners, and insecticides. Nitrogen oxides are produced by the burning of fossil fuels, primarily motor vehicles and power plants.
These impacts threaten our infrastructure, public health, and quality of life. On top of this, the population of Los Angeles County is expected to grow by about 14 percent by 2050, which could mean more traffic on our freeways, more air pollution, and a greater need for electricity and water, all adding to both the immediate and long term effects.
What You Can Do
During community outreach sessions on this topic, Aquarium educators have been talking with residents and developing ideas for what people can do to build climate resilience. People will need to figure out how climate change will impact their community and how they can respond and adapt.
One way to help move that process forward is to contact city officials and urge them to recognize the impacts that will be felt in the community, residents who will be most vulnerable, and actions the city should take to prepare. Attending city council meetings and public hearings is a good way to stay on top of what local officials are doing to address climate resilience.
Another effective way for individuals to engage with this issue is to take the approach of being a good neighbor. Get to know the people who live close to you, identify those who might be most vulnerable to climate-related impacts, and make a plan to help others if and when the need arises.
Our most vulnerable neighbors include the elderly and very young, people with disabilities, people with chronic health conditions, those who lack financial resources, and people who are socially isolated. Identify family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and others who might need assistance during extreme heat, storms, or other events.
Encourage your neighbors to sign up to receive alerts from your city government or other agencies for local disasters or emergencies, and develop a plan for how you will respond as a neighborhood and community.
One of the simplest ways to help spread the idea of climate resilience is to talk about it with others. Use the community connections you already have, whether in a church group, parent-teacher association, neighborhood association, sports team, or other social group.
You can also use your spheres of influence as a business owner or decision-maker to start conversations about climate resilience with friends, family, and colleagues. Sharing ideas about how these groups can help make a difference can lead to building climate resilience while strengthening bonds among friends and neighbors.
How to Start the Conversation
Climate change can be a challenging topic to talk about. To make it easier, start with the basics and talk with friends and neighbors about what you love about your community and what you would be willing to do to preserve it.
Start to identify how climate change will affect the things you love, from beaches and parks to historic architecture and clean air. Ask how you want your community to look in the future. Identify which parts of your community might be hit harder than others.
The topic of climate change feels incrementally easier to tackle when you look at it from a practical standpoint: What can we do to be prepared? Often, the actions taken provide other benefits, including improved health, beautifying your neighborhood, increasing urban wildlife, and saving money. We get information from people we trust and people we know.
Friends and family are the trusted sources we look to in making decisions in our lives. The more opportunities we find to talk about climate resilience and changes we expect to see in the future, the more comfortable we will be with finding creative, community-based solutions.
The Aquarium is also working to be a good neighbor in its community by providing resources and going out into the community to listen to residents’ concerns and learn more about the community’s needs. Look for the Aquarium’s outreach booth at local events and talk to the educators about what you can do to build climate resilience.
If you are a community leader or member of a community group that might be interested in hosting a climate resilience workshop, send an email to email@example.com. You can find the Aquarium’s Citizens’ Guide to Building a Climate-Resilient Long Beach on the website by entering citizens’ guide in the search bar.
While the guide focuses on Long Beach, the concepts and climate impacts it covers apply to much of Southern California and other cities across the U.S. You can also follow the Aquarium’s Twitter feed dedicated to climate resilience at twitter.com/resilientLBaop or visit our Climate Resilient Long Beach Page at here