Report outlines how city can adapt to the climate crisis

Malibu Foundation logo.

Foundation recommendations community brigades, solar power, water storage, and services for disadvantaged

A new report released last week from the Malibu Foundation, titled “Our Climate Crisis: A Guide for Communities in the Wildland Urban Interface,” outlines how Malibu and other local communities surrounding the Santa Monica Mountains can adapt to the climate crisis. Shea Cunningham and Dean Kubani authored the report, but numerous local experts and key stakeholders were consulted.

In a press release, the nonprofit said it recognized the local area was still having difficulty recovering from the 2018 Woolsey Fire and saw “an urgent need to bring key stakeholders together to focus on how to proactively be more climate-resilient.” 

“It’s essentially a guide to assist our communities in achieving what many are calling the great reset,” wrote Cunningham.

“With increasingly extreme weather fluctuations, from flooding to extreme heat, fires and wind, communities must adapt in order to thrive within our new reality,” Evelin Weber, executive director and co-founder of the Malibu Foundation said. “Los Angeles saw the hottest summer on record in 2021 … Our goal with the report is to provide … a much needed model plan of action on how to move forward.”

Referred to as a “community resilience guide,” the report can be used by individuals, neighborhood groups, local governments, agencies, and other stakeholders in the area to create an individualized Climate Action Plan, assess problems and follow the “High Priority Action Recommendations.” 

A virtual public presentation of the report was hosted by the Pepperdine University Sustainability Program on Feb. 8 and about 120 people tuned in.

Host/moderator Chris Doran, a Pepperdine professor, emphasized that the time to act is now. 

“Our atmosphere now contains the most carbon dioxide its had in about 3 million years, when there was no human life on our planet,” he said. “What that means is that we’re living in a climate emergency today.

“For human beings to learn to live with the climate emergency, we have two choices: We can just let it happen to us, or we can try to do something about it,” he continued.

The report recommends that local communities work together to develop a regional “Climate Action and Adaptation Plan” to prepare for the multiple hazards that climate change is already bringing, and make a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Malibu already belongs to a group that could take on this task: the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments (COG), a Joint Powers Authority over Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu and Westlake Village.

Then, the report recommends that each town update its own emergency response and evacuation, as well as plans to mitigate the impact from fires, floods and landslides, and post-wildfire debris flows.

The elements of such a plan could include: 

  • creating community brigades
  • identifying where additional fire hydrants can be installed
  • reducing water usage
  • installing micro-grid solar energy systems
  • providing low-income and older adult households with hand-crank AM/FM radios and two-way radios
  • having communications systems for emergency information
  • finding funds to help those who need financial assistance with home hardening
  • creating a practical system to check on older and/or disabled neighbors.

A few of these tasks are already being pursued by Malibu’s Public Safety Department.

The report recommends offering incentives to residents and businesses to replace inefficient water fixtures and plant drought-tolerant native plants. (For Malibu residents, the West Basin Municipal Water District already gives out rebates for many water-saving items, including grass replacement, high-efficiency toilets and washing machines, rotating sprinkler nozzles, weather-based irrigation controllers, rain barrels and cisterns.) 

Cunningham said a 6 1/2-foot sea level rise scenario is now possible, which would cause Malibu to lose “a significant amount of infrastructure, especially in the Civic Center area.” All along the coast, as well as inland along the Malibu Creek, a total of 1,642 properties are predicted to be impacted, she said, along with primary roads. 

Local water expert Madelyn Glickfield pointed out that Malibu imports 100 percent of its water, making it highly vulnerable to drought. 

“We need to reduce our demand and figure out how we can use more recycled water resources.” she said. “Water District 29, which supplies most of Malibu’s water, just provides drinking water, and doesn’t have enough water storage tanks. So I think we have to really look at ways of increasing water captured at the individual home level.”

Kubani said it is important to be ready for problems caused by rainy weather.

“Most all the major roads will be majorly vulnerable to landslides, debris flows and flooding when we have major rain events, just like last month, where we saw five inches of rain come down in 24 hours,” he said.

The Climate Crisis project is funded by the Malibu Foundation and collaborating partners Climate Resolve, Pepperdine University Sustainability Program, Resilient Palisades, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge.