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The Topanga Creek Watershed Committee  & Thoughts on Climate Change

Special To Topanga Journal

Climate change has a direct impact on Topanga Creek and the waterways it drains into, most notably the Santa Monica Bay. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal projects that sea levels may rise anywhere from 11 to 52 inches by 2100, depending on how much heat-trapping gas we emit. That could be detrimental to Los Angeles’ coastline and Topanga Beach. As the planet warms, seawater levels will rise, ice sheets will melt and water levels will change, flooding beaches in some areas and causing drought in others.

Lighthouse at Sea Level Rise by Johannes Plenio
Lighthouse at Sea Level Rise by Johannes Plenio

Changes in rainfall may alter when and how much sediment washes down rivers and creeks. Topanga Creek out to the sea may experience changes related to sea level, seawater temperature, and other ocean dynamics, contributing to the erosion of beaches. Studies that model these complicated processes have shown that climate change may alter where “erosion hotspots” occur along the California coastline. For Los Angeles this could also affect coastal infrastructure, including two wastewater treatment plants, two power plants, and the Port of Los Angeles.

I Am Earth by Loe Moshkovska
I Am Earth by Loe Moshkovska

By Jessamyn Sheldon

A lack of rain and high temperatures are also exacerbating wildfires in our region. The combination of low humidity, sparse precipitation, dense and dry brush, and Santa Ana winds are a huge threat to Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains. Five of the 20 worst fires in California history have occurred since September, when 245, 000 acres in Northern California burned. Topanga is especially susceptible to this type of threat due to a high density of dry brush within and surrounding the canyon. More wildfires and hot days could lower air quality.

Woolsey Fire 2018 photo by Kriss Perras
Woolsey Fire 2018 photo by Kriss Perras

Because preserving water quality is essential to protect both human populations and natural ecosystems, it is imperative to assess these impacts, and to develop strategies to adapt to the upcoming changes and mitigate their effects on our watershed. Topanga Creek used to be an integral part of the Canyon’s landscape and ecosystem, but the drought has led to Topanga Creek remaining unusually dry and inhibiting the birth of endangered steelhead trout and tidewater goby.

The mission of the Topanga Creek Watershed Committee is to refine and develop consensus-based, voluntary watershed-protective measures and strategies that effectively minimize negative impacts to the watershed and all who inhabit it. The Watershed Committee is inclusive of all stakeholders in the watershed and is free and open to all interested community members. Historically organized according to a Coordinated Resource Management Plan (CRMP), our grassroots organization continues to ensure that all participants have an equal voice in the process.

Topanga Creek is the third largest drainage basin into the Santa Monica Bay and manifests the greatest biodiversity. We have not yet lost our Creek, and the goal of the Committee is to see that not only is it protected, but also enhanced so that it can once again support endangered steelhead trout and other important residents of the Canyon. Topanga Creek is classified as an interrupted stream, and the Topanga Watershed covers approximately 12,748 acres (18 square miles). 11,082 acres are undeveloped or held by state and federal park agencies as part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Climate change is an all-encompassing global issue. The consequences will not discern between political boundaries or economic class. It is a global problem that has been slowly coming to the forefront of societal considerations. The global temperature has risen significantly each year as humans continue to industrialize without consideration of consequences. Studies have shown that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has doubled since the 1960’s. The reason climate change is an inevitable global concern is that there is a prevalence of inaction and skepticism among far too many across the world.

One big problem that exists today is that government views immediate economic gain as being more important than the steady increase in global temperature. A majority of big businesses are tied in problematic ways to politicians and governmental organizations. Money has often served to corrupt political systems, including in some of our most vaunted democracies- places that are supposed to consider people over profit. This hard truth has led individuals to take matters into their own hands; both 2017 and 2018 have been remarkable years for profound, yet peaceful, protest. This surge in individuals voicing their concern has occurred in conjunction with Donald Trump’s time in office. Trump has entered office and swiftly set back environmental progress in the United States. He actually announced on his fourth day in office that he intended to expand fossil fuel production and roll back a raft of some of our most important environmental regulations, including the Endangered Species Act.

The truth is that climate change is real. Nine out of ten scientists devoted to studying climate patterns agree; it’s undeniable. Sea glaciers are melting at a tremendous rate. Climate change is causing an increased air temperature, causing moisture levels in air to increase in some places while reducing moisture in others. The effects of these extreme ecological changes have already begun to affect plants and animals in places that are now either too hot or too cold for what they can evolutionarily manage.

The monetary stability that exists in energy production is a direct result of the scalpel taken to regulations intended to protect resources and natural landscapes. The disregard towards ecological protection is a growing concern for the public because, if changes are not made within energy production, society will be faced with major loss. Alternative clean energy is a huge and growing market. Energy alternatives are necessary for humans to shift dependency off non-renewable fossil fuels that worsen climate change.

Local grassroots momentum and lobbying efforts play a necessary role alongside regulation efforts because the reality is that often policy regulation will not be enacted soon enough to solve the problem. That is why the Topanga Creek Watershed Committee was created, to protect our community from these overarching political policies. Local actors require a consensus in order to demand action from the government. Regulations by themselves are not enough to create major change, however. You need people and businesses to want to do the right thing of their own accord.

The facts are irrefutable; global sea levels are rising. Plants and wildlife are dying off with all the stress from heat and drought. Rising temperatures create agricultural fragility and directly affect environmental and public health. Public participation is crucial to spread awareness and initiate change, because politicians manifest change only when the public rises up and demands it.

There is a very real risk of a global catastrophe if global warming is left unchecked. Potential international resource concerns, such as oceanic acidification leading to the mass death of coral and plankton, which is the basis of the Earth’s food chain, along with the collapse of the tropical rainforests, and the melting of ice sheets, could cause a cataclysmic rise in worldwide sea levels. The population is growing steadily; in half a century, the world population has grown from 3 to 7 billion. The industrialization of agriculture and the food system has been one way that many countries have tried to sustain the growing population. But industrial agriculture comes at a steep climate cost.

From an economic standpoint, carbon fees would go back to citizens, meaning that if businesses did not become more energy efficient and start converting to green energy, they would become less competitive and lose market share. The assumption that we must choose between the economy and a safe climate is false. A carbon fee that returns revenue to households could actually stimulate the economy and spur job growth in the clean technology sector because a comforting reality is that consumers dictate the economy. Once these changes are implemented and succeed, more nations would adopt the system and global demand would bring green technologies to mass market faster, driving down costs and making the transition to a green economy easier for everyone.

Climate change presents a direct threat to security through its effect on the infrastructure that stabilizes our nation’s security. A majority of Americans support taking action to address the threat of global warming, but due to great opposition from officials in Congress, legislation to address climate change has yet to be implemented.


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