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Living Green

UCLA scientist projects climate change in LA with supercomputer

by Elias Kamal Jabbe

LOS ANGELES — World-renowned climate scientist Alex Hall shared alarming data on the future of weather conditions in LA and other cities at the University of California, Los Angeles on May 31, 2013. The UCLA Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences professor, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) member and 2007 Nobel Prize Laureate shared some results from research he’s recently conducted with his UCLA Climate Sensitivity Research Lounge team and a rare supercomputer which illustrates that LA’s climate could rise by approximately 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

UCLA scientist projects climate change in LA with supercomputer
In this photo released by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, J.R. DeSchazo, Jonathan Parfrey, Cara Horowitz and Alex Hall listen to questions from their audience after a panel on climate change at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on May 31, 2013. Photo: Rich Schmitt

Before discussing environmental policy with his fellow UCLA professors Cara Horowitz, Glen MacDonald and J.R. DeSchazo and Climate Resolve Executive Director Jonathan Parfrey, Hall revealed several distinct possibilities for the future of LA and its climate.

“There isn't a person in the world who cares about the global room temperature. What matters is how climate change manifests itself at the local scale. Our city exists as a global mega-city because of its unique climate. Now that LAsurpassed the carbon dioxide threshold of 400 (parts per million), it is on course to reach 1200 during the period of 2041 to 2060 (if we don’t reduce emissions). This is what we call the ‘business as usual’ scenario and on other hand we expect that the ‘mitigation’ scenario, which corresponds to the least amount of warming (due to improved environmental policies), will result in a level of 460,” said Hall, who recommended visiting the websiteC-Change.LA in order to see visual data on LA and also discussed adapting to climate change at Zócalo Public Square earlier this year.

UCLA scientist projects climate change in LA with supercomputer
The research conducted by UCLA professor Alex Hall and his team led to projections that LA's August temperature during the end of the century could routinely surpass 90 degrees Fahrenheit if regional carbon emissions aren't reduced soon. Photo: Alex Hall

While explaining how the 'business as usual' trend could degrade LA's historically pleasant weather, he projected that the average August temperature in LA could rise to the low 90s by the end of this century. Hall, who also released data this summer on snowfall in LA's mountains potentially decreasing by around 40 percent by 2050 due to global warming, added that analyzing climate patterns in other cities is a wise strategy for him and other Californian researchers to utilize.

While saluting the quality of the research done by Hall and his team, which includes several researchers from China and France, Horowitz spoke about the importance of an international perspective when it comes to climate change policy.

“What we can do in California is show that it (regional climate change policy) works so that we can all become terrific ambassadors to other jurisdictions to grow these programs and to help restart a strong national climate program. Then we can take it even beyond our shores, as we've already started to do. Many of you probably saw the news that California has now linked with Quebec's cap and trade program,”said Horowitz, who teaches courses on environmental law and serves as executive director of the UCLA Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment.

UCLA scientist projects climate change in LA with supercomputer
After projecting the most and least possible warming that could occur during the rest of the century, Alex Hall and his research team combined the two and called their average the "ensemble mean." Photo: Alex Hall

Convincing Californians

Parfrey cited a George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication poll which revealed that just one-third of people interviewed understood global warming’s implications while declaring that clearer explanations of the concept of climate change are needed.

“Nine out of ten images that people think of when invoking climate change are non-human, such as polar bears in arctic areas. We need new voices, such as utility managers (working for energy companies), talking about the need for more efficient technology,” said Parfrey, who is a steering committee member of the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative on Climate Change and Sustainability (LARC).

"Most of all, we need solutions."

MacDonald, who is director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, moderated the discussion among his colleagues and encouraged scientists to communicate messages about the impact of climate change on everyday people to stakeholders more clearly.

“Effective science communication is not just about giving a good talk. It's about sharing critical data with policymakers: that's our challenge.”

DeSchazo noted the importance of sharing tangible data with people who determine policy but also pointed out that residents of LA’s underserved communities shouldn't be overlooked when new energy efficiency policy is created.

"85 to 90 percent of LA’s disadvantaged residents disproportionately live in multifamily housing complexes. Improving energy efficiency is important because people in these communities spend a larger portion of their overall income on transportation, water and utility bills (compared to more affluent people),” said DeSchazo, who also discussed environmental justice's role in California's newest energy policies.

"LA's neighborhoods contains the largest urban share out of all of California's underserved areas. This urban share includes South Central LA, East LA and other areas. There's a rule in California's cap-and-trade program under SB 535 (Senate Bill Number 535) which says that at least 25 percent of the $2.5 billion in cap-and-trade auction revenue proceeds from the next five years must be invested in clean energy projects that improve low-income communities."

UCLA scientist projects climate change in LA with supercomputer
In this photo released by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, environmentalist and UCLA professor Mary Nichols is seen speaking about climate change and lobbying to a capacity crowd in Los Angeles at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on May 31, 2013. Nichols was named by TIME Magazine in 2013 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Photo: Rich Schmitt

The audience, which was large and diverse thanks to the presence of students, environmentalists and policymakers such as California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols, also shared interesting insight on climate change during a question-and-answer session. Gabrielle Weeks, chair of Sierra Club's Long Beach chapter, offered an international example which served as a rebuttal to U.S. politicians who have alleged that there is a fundamental incompatibility between job creation and climate change policy.

"Angela Merkel put many people to work through weatherization initiatives. This is proof that it's not true when politicians say 'you can have jobs or the environment' during their campaigns," said Weeks while praising the German Chancellor, who has made her country a leader in Europe and around the world in the area of sustainability since her election in 2005.

It's clear that there are several areas in California where global warming will have an impact. With that said, the only thing that is up in the air—besides all the carbon dioxide—is when.

Video, audio, presentations and photos from this event are available online courtesy of The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation:

Elias Kamal Jabbe is a Los Angeles-based journalist and PR Specialist and the Founder of Multicultural Matters, an online news publication which promotes cultural discovery, sustainability and entrepreneurship. Feel free to connect with Elias via LinkedIn or

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