Michael Paparian, former Deputy State Treasurer, Board Member of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, and Sierra Club California State Director, gives live-updates via blog post at COP24, the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
(December 6, 2018) COP24, Katowice, Poland – Scientists have spent the three years since COP21 refining and reviewing data, observations and studies. And since COP21 in Paris, they’ve learned to convey their findings in the clear language policymakers can understand, even preparing a special report directed at policymakers.
This is the fourth COP I’ve attended. The sense of urgency the scientists are conveying cannot be understated. They know what’s happening, they’re scared, and they want policymakers to take steps now to stop the worst effects of climate change.
Dr. Hoesung Lee heads the vast group of science advisors to United Nations climate efforts. “Achieving net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases is necessary,” he told those gathered at COP24. He also said that we need to start this rapid reduction quickly. “Every bit of warming matter. Every year matters. Every choice matters.”
Dr. Elena Manaenkova of the World Meteorological Organization also advises the climate policymakers. She said the latest findings show that the hottest four years on record are the past four years (including 2018). She also said that the current average global warming of about 1 degree centigrade is not uniform throughout the world. The Arctic is warming at a rate of about five times faster than the rest of the earth and many land areas are also warming faster than the average.
Those of us from California know first hand the impacts that are already here. Our recent fires destroyed lives, displaces thousands of people from their homes and caused smoke-related health impacts throughout the state. Last month, my family wore uncomfortable breathing masks for a time in order to safely go outdoors.
California is clearly not alone. Island nations face special concerns from sea level rise. Other areas are facing increased hurricane and storm risk. The heat, drought, water supply and other impacts California faces are similar to those faces by similar Mediterranean type climate zones.
There are five Mediterranean climate zones in the world, including California/northern Baha, Central Peru, southern & southwest Australia, South Africa Western Cape and the Mediterranean Basin area.
One of the COP24 workshops I attended focused on how to adjust within these climate zones:
Laurel Hunt of the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative described how her team is working with the policymakers in her region to develop a sustainability plan to address the direct and indirect impacts of climate change, including energy, transportation, public health, water and housing. Los Angeles is embarking on an unprecedented public collaboration process to engage the citizenry in understanding and developing solutions.
Tropical and other vector-borne diseases are on the increase in Mediterranean climate regions. West Nile Virus is on the increase in these areas. Dr. Orna Matzner, a science advisor to the government of Israel described how a recent outbreak of Leptospirosis could be traced back to public exposure in rivers and streams. Those water bodies had an increase in stagnant areas caused by lower water flows and drought conditions.
Alon Zask of the Israel Ministry for Environmental Protection described how a future water strategy should rely on a combination of steps, including pollution prevention, wastewater treatment and desalination. He said that “In Israel, sewage is a water source.” He also said that more than 50% of water used in Israel is now “manufactured” from desalination facilities. “If we’re talking about adaptation, this is adaptation.
Geoffrey Danker of Sempra Utilities in California described how they are now addressing both the transition to renewable energy and adaptation of their infrastructure to current and future climate impacts. They are already protecting low-lying facilities from sea level rise, addressing fire impacts, and taking other steps. Together with other utilities, they evaluate and learn lessons from every extreme weather or fire disaster. “The really depressing thing is that every time we get together to evaluate one disaster,” he said, another new disaster that has come along in the meantime.
Dr. Jordan Harris of Adapt Chile said his country has faced severe fires and droughts as have other similar Mediterranean regions. He summed up the situation for these regions, saying they have become a “climate laboratory” as more and more climate events affect their country.
Michael Paparian consults on environmental issues and is former Deputy State Treasurer, Board Member of the California Integrated Waste Management Board and Sierra Club California State Director.