From the Publisher: Climate Change is Now

Arnold G. York

There was a time a mere few years ago when climate change seemed like one of those academic issues that was years away and nothing would really impact us in the now. Well, that was then and this is now—our world is changing faster than any us ever anticipated.

The state of California does a report called a Climate Change Assessment, which surveys temperature, water, wildfires, sea level, community impacts and governance. It has just finished its fourth assessment and in the words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-changin’.”


Researchers anticipate an air temperature rise of 5.5 degrees to 8.8 degrees by 2100. This year, we have suffered a number of extreme heat days with temperatures over 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s already happening. If you’ve been in the ocean lately, it feels like bathwater. Just this week, a large group of fish simply died in the Lagoon, they believe from higher temperatures. We’re seeing tropical type fish you would expect to see in Southern Baja swimming in Malibu waters. The sharks and other predators will be following them. It’s not just the sea life and the price you’re going to pay for fish. Warmer water means change in the weather and the winds. Everything is now unseasonably dry and fire dangerous, and it’s not likely to improve.

Water supply

Much of our water supply comes from the snowpack in the mountains. In the spring, the snowpack fills the reservoirs and recharges the aquifers. In 2014 and 2015, there was almost no snowpack. From 2012 to 2016, we went through an enormous drought. We urbanites are dependent on mountain water for drinking water and irrigation of our homes and gardens. For the agricultural industries, water is their lifeblood. There are now monumental battles going on between cities and rural, industrial and agricultural and, most recently, humans versus the environmentalists over the allocation of water. Researchers anticipate two-third decline of the water supply from the snowpack by 2050, which is only 32 years away. As they have to bring water in from afar, the price of everything we grow and eat is going up.

Impacts to agriculture

Researchers estimate by 2050 there will be water shortages of up to 16 percent in certain parts of the agricultural industry. We’re going to have to switch crops and move way from fruit or nut crops with pits, which are all big water users. There is also a massive political push to build expensive water pipelines to transport water from wet areas.


Currently, the moisture level is down in the plants and there are large fuel loads in many areas of the state, including the Santa Monica Mountains, so it’s becoming one big tinderbox. Rising ocean temperatures also change the wind patterns and we’re seeing large, more unpredictable winds that are pushing the fires when they do occur. In 1993, when Malibu burned, we lost a few hundred homes and that was considered a gigantic fire. By the standard of the most recent fires, it was just a small flare up. With bigger wildfires come larger governmental costs for first responders, increased regulation limiting what and where you can build, higher insurance costs and questions about who should bear the risks. The utilities have just tried to change the laws to limit their exposure for major fires started by their equipment. To date, the legislature has turned them down but it is seriously worried about the possibility that a utility like PG&E could go bankrupt.

Sea level rise

In the last century, sea levels rose six inches. The estimate for the next century is that sea levels could rise as much as 64 inches by the end of the century, unless there are major programs to control greenhouse gases.

Today in Malibu, we are already seeing the effects of the changes. Broad Beach, which at one time was truly a Broad Beach with sand dunes like New England, has seen the sand vanish in many parts of the beach. The same can be said for some of the Malibu Colony Beach. Beaches that formerly replenished themselves in the winter are not coming back the same way. It’s only a matter of time, if it hasn’t already begun, before it affects the value of beachfront properties. Government agencies, like the Coastal Commission, are very negative on armoring the coast, rebuilding sea walls if they wash out and other protective measures. As the weather impacts worsen, there are going to be monumental and expensive legal battles over the oceanfront. The environmental movement is going to be under major attack from homeowners and government agencies trying to protect their infrastructure and investments.


Lastly, and most difficult, is that the government is going to have to act in response to this climate change. My sense is that government is pretty good at maintaining but has real difficulty in a changing landscape like this. The battles are going to be brutal because so many of the old rules are not going to work with the changed conditions. There are loads of single interest groups and competing lobbies, who all have skin in this game, including us here in Malibu. It is not going to be pretty.