Our climate is changing, so we are becoming more resilient. Learn more about the potential threats to Pala that we can reduce by working together.
CLIMATE ADAPTATION PLAN
The Pala Environmental Department is working on a Climate Adaptation Plan.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND CLIMATE READINESS
WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?
Climate change is a constant. Globally and locally, the climate has varied throughout the earth’s history. Pala now is drier than it was 15,000 years ago. Going back even further, Pala might have been extremely warm and rainy during the time of the dinosaurs or colder during an Ice Age. However, in the last few hundred years, the climate is changing as a result of human activities, a new experience for the earth.
Now we use the general term “Climate Change” to refer to the result of human activities altering weather patterns worldwide. A more accurate term would be anthropogenic – or man-made – climate change. Some people use the term “Global Warming” because average global temperatures are rising.
CLIMATE OR WEATHER?
Climate and weather are closely related but are not the same thing. Climate, broadly speaking, refers to long-term weather patterns, such as throughout a season. Weather is day-to-day events: a rainstorm, a cold front, a tornado, and so on. Climate is a longer approach to describing these events. For Pala, the weather could be some rainy, cold days in winter or a few hot, dry days in summer. But the climate of Pala would be called a Mediterranean-style climate or an arid climate.
When scientists and other researchers are discussing climate and climate change, they are talking about the difference between the average weather patterns from the past to now. We could say that the climate is likely to be hotter with drier summers and fewer, stronger storms. The weather for any given day might be cold or hot, rainy or dry, cloudy or sunny. When scientists and researchers look at averages over the long term, this is how we can see patterns of change and compare them to other information to see why this might be happening.
HOW DO WE KNOW HUMANS ARE CAUSING IT?
A lot of news and research focuses on our use of fossil fuels such as oil and gas, and the emissions from those fuels. These emissions are known collectively as greenhouse gases, with the most problematic being methane and CO2 (carbon dioxide). Humans are adding more gases than would enter the atmosphere through natural processes, in effect creating a blanket of gases around the earth that trap heat and contribute to warming our planet.
It’s not just fossil fuel use that contributes to climate change. Towns and cities with paved roads increase temperatures locally. Large-scale land use changes, such as deforestation or converting agricultural lands to suburban or urban developments, can disrupt precipitation patterns. Increases in wildfires, changes in the salinity of water from human activity, and other things that we are doing as humans have impacts on weather and climate.
One of the most obvious examples is the cutting down of the rainforests for urban development, large-scale agriculture, and industrial animal farming for meat production. When humans cut down the rainforest trees, the local climate dries. Without the trees to draw water from the rivers and ground and put it back into the atmosphere, rain comes less frequently.
When human beings across the planet are heavily impacting natural processes, those processes are changing. Putting together information we know such as the increase in greenhouses gases from industrialization and the concurrent change in global temperatures, we can see a pattern.
Right now, the patterns are adding up and 97% of scientists who study the climate (including climatologists, physicists, earth and atmospheric scientists, ecologists, and more) agree that human beings are changing the earth’s climate.
WHAT’S CHANGING LOCALLY?
In Southern California, we are seeing a slight rise in sea levels, an increase in hot days, a decrease in cold days, and some changes in weather patterns.
Current climate models and data predict a few changes that will impact Pala:
- The number of extreme heat days (90° F and up) will increase.
- The total amount of runoff from storms may drop by 12%, meaning less groundwater recharge.
- Sea levels are already rising. As they continue to rise and coastal flooding increases, people may look closer to the inland valleys for housing, increasing the pressures on our local environment.
- More hot days and hotter days early and late in the year means a higher chance of wildfires.
- Culturally and environmentally important species may disappear locally or move northwards or to higher elevations. Oaks and chaparral habitat might be replaced by desert scrub and plants adapted to longer, hotter and drier summers.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
Pala and its people are extremely resilient. Pala is already doing many things to help, including developing plans for climate change and emergencies. All new houses are built with solar panels and many buildings are being retrofitted to conserve energy. There are a few things we can all do to protect Pala, the culture, and the environment in the coming decades:
- Reduce emissions: Drive less, get electric vehicles, carpool, and go solar!
- Conserve water: Take shorter showers, fix leaks, and set up rain barrels.
- Grow native: Plant low water and native plants in gardens and yards.
- Reduce waste and recycle.
- Try to buy more foods produced by local farmers or that can be grown sustainably.
- Avoid products that are known to harm the planet: Look for Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, and other certifications for products better for the environment.
- Dispose of hazardous waste properly: Never down the drain!
Regardless of climate change and other ongoing issues, there are many small things we can all do to make our communities healthier and happier. This is just a short list of ways we can reduce damage to our earth and cultures, preserving nature and our way of life for our children and our children’s children. If you have questions about Pala’s climate and the changes we can expect, or how to help create resilience, contact us!
Pala helped get Climate Kids – Tribes off the ground, an educational resource that teaches kids about climate through science, story, and art! Visit Climatekids.org/tribes.