State of the Region

The science is clear: Climate change is happening now. The effects, ranging from increased temperatures, less predictable water supply, rising sea levels, and more frequent wildfires, are already occurring. Although climate change is a global problem, its impacts are experienced locally. In fact, in a region as large and geographically diverse as Los Angeles, the type and intensity of impacts can vary down to the neighborhood level. To respond effectively, decision makers in Los Angeles must understand how this global phenomenon affects our unique region and communities. Inland communities will face different challenges than coastal ones, but the drivers of climate change are similar across the region.

Los Angeles County, as the most populous county in the nation, hosting the second-largest city in the county, is in an extraordinary position to lead the nation in addressing the impacts of climate change as a region. In essence, while there may be distinct climate impacts in specific areas – sea level rise versus high heat – the county must begin to address these impacts collaboratively. Though there are 88 distinct cities within the county, success in addressing climate change requires regional approaches, each place bringing its strength and commitment to the whole region’s ability to adapt. The region cannot approach such a pervasive impact city-by-city. This dynamic means a commitment to thinking out of the box, beyond the past and the present, and to seek new solutions and ways of thinking that take us to greater collaboration and toward new governance arrangements and funding sources. The passage of Measure M in 2016, a sales tax increase for more transportation spending, is an indication of the region’s capability for new directions. Climate change will require this same level of commitment.

What every decision maker needs to know about climate change:

  • Climate change is real and is happening now.
  • Even if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced now, the climate will continue to change through midcentury.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains critical to mitigating the most severe and potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change that are predicted to occur after midcentury.
  • Climate change impacts will vary across the Los Angeles region, even down to the neighborhood scale. Therefore, mitigation and adaptation strategies must be place-based but understood as having regional benefit.
  • At the same time, impacts such as sea level rise, and emissions reductions strategies, such as reducing vehicle miles traveled and the use of fossil energy, cross jurisdictional boundaries and require a collaborative decision making approach.
  • Climate change is deeply integrated into many aspects of the challenges the region faces and has faced. It risks exacerbating a number of them. For example, measures to improve air quality will strengthen Los Angeles’s ability to respond to climate change and improve people’s health. Therefore, such actions should be seen as a component of building climate resilience.
  • In the Los Angeles region, climate change impacts include increased temperatures, altering rainfall patterns, increased wildfires, and rising sea levels.

Climate models predict changes in the environment due to increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For example, models estimate changes in temperatures, water flows, sea level, and wildfire patterns. Climate models predict the expected change by a certain date, such as increase in average temperature by midcentury. They do not provide information regarding the rate of change (x degrees warmer per year). There is often a mismatch between the time and geography at which a scientist predicts changes and the time and geography at which decision-makers seek information. This was found to be particularly true for predictions regarding changes in water flows. Climate models are best at long-term forecasts. However, while they may seem far-off, they enable the development of plans, strategies, and programs to be implemented to mitigate and to even alter these forecasts. They enable people in the present to anticipate in a proactive manner how to adapt and to ensure that human well-being is protected and that the ecosystem services the region depends upon are protected.

The following Framework document is an attempt to identify the top issues that have regional impact and that must be addressed by the county’s inhabitants together, to ensure the region remains livable and vital. It will require compromise and change.