Is Climate Change Real?

Last week, I drove through Malibu to see the effects of the Woolsey Fire which started near the Simi Valley and eventually swept through Malibu on November 9th. It burned 96,949 acres of land, destroyed 177 homes, and killed three people. The scale of the devastation is enormous with the rolling hills turned an amber color and the remaining trees shorn of their leaves. On the junction of the Pacific Coast Highway and Kanan Dume Road, there is a burnt-out car and further up the winding mountain pass, you can see where the raging flames have scorched the road black. Power lines are down and occasionally, you can spot structures that have been burnt to cinders with only a few ghostly details remaining. Wildfires are a naturally occurring phenomenon in California, according to Alejandra Borunda in a story for the National Geographic, but since the 1980’s, the size and intensity of these fires has increased. Climate change is an influencing factor, and Borunda writes that, in fact, “over the past century, California has warmed by about three degrees Fahrenheit.”
 
I thought about this as I walked the foreshore just below Malibu Beach RV Park, where I stayed in March this year. Then, with my camper van parked high above the ocean, I watched the sun rise and set, and I spent time walking the beach, sitting near the water with my back to a rock. What would it be like if sea levels rose? Perhaps, I wouldn’t be able to feel this stretch of sand beneath my toes. Maybe, in a summer of the future, it even might be too hot to go to the beach. I wondered, too, whether I’d still be able to eat fish and chips bought from Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market, a tiny shack of a restaurant bordering the Pacific Coast Highway, and the impact of shifting plant and animal habitats. Earlier this year, when I visited the restaurant and ate fried calamari from one of the tables in the sunshine, you could see the rolling hills spattered with deep, green grass and pockmarked with trees. Now, they’re charred with fire crews wondering the hiking routes to demarcate areas prone to landslides. There’s been a lot of rain in Los Angeles of late and exposed hillsides such as this one pose a risk to the surrounding areas.  
 
“The stuff around us is a little unsightly,” says Ryan of the devastation surrounding Malibu Seafood. “But if you turn around, we have a beautiful view.” It is a beautiful view. From one tables, with its gently peeling red paint, you can see the horizon across the Pacific Ocean -- and I realize that everything is interconnected. At the moment, there is a drought in parts of Australia, a relatively short flight away. Recently, Cape Town suffered one of the worst droughts in its history; a city might have run out of water. The debate about climate change isn’t a simple one and, with such divergent ideas about climate change and what is actually happening, how do we know who and what to believe? To me, the debate seems unequivocal and you can read the latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change here. Climate change isn’t just about rising temperatures or drought, nor is it just a problem for the rich, hence the importance of agreements like the one made in Paris. Some consensus has to be reached if we are to mitigate the effects of the changes occurring to our climate. The Woolsey fire, despite occurring in and around Malibu, is a human problem in the same way that the other effects of climate change are. Climate change concerns everybody. The next question should be: what do we do about it?