Climate change is on the minds of many, including those at the third annual climate-change forum.

“The New Challenges of Climate Change: Sea Level Rise and Water Conservation — Local, Regional and Global Effects” runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. The free event is put on through a partnership between the aquarium and the Long Beach League of Women Voters (LWV).

“It’s a complex topic,” event chairman and LWV board member Ron Salk said. “Events are unfolding as we talk.”

After receiving early reports on the sea-level rise in the L.A. area, Salk said the aquarium theater’s 290 seats were filled for the second annual symposium last year.

“Schubel said, ‘Let’s do it again in 2017,’” Salk said, noting aquarium president/CEO Jerry Schubel’s support. Additionally, he is an oceanographer and keynote speaker at the forum, he said.

The event coincidentally happens days after the final report on sea-level rise and related issues for the Los Angeles/Long Beach area, Salk said — the United States Geological Services’ Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS). Only preliminary reports have been available so far, he said.

“Everyone’s eager in Long Beach to get these projections,” Salk said.

Besides Schubel, the speakers include Dr. Juliette Finzi Hart, U. S. Geological Survey’s director of outreach for the Coastal Storm Modeling Systems Group; Dr. Timu W. Gallien of UCLA, an authority on urban coastal flooding; John D. S. Allen, director of District 3 of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California; and Kevin Wattier, former general manager of the Long Beach Water Department and an authority on urban water management and conservation.

Finzi Hart said Long Beach initially wasn’t part of the study, but now parts of it are. Although she said she hadn’t looked at the final report as of last week, she knew it used statewide study guidance to determine where the sea might rise.

“They use the waves offshore,” Finzi Hart said. “Where you see flooding today (Naples and Belmont Shore) is where it’s most vulnerable.”

She noted the recent combination of rain and high tides showed how conditions could be permanently. (Click on the link to view Finzi Hart's recent video taken near Belmont Shore.) 

“It could be at the end of the century, it could be 200 years from now,” she said, noting some scientists were predicting a three to six feet rise by 2100. But there are two unpredictable factors, she said, the major ice sheets melting and what people will do individually and collectively.

Salk said the LWV has had monthly study groups devoted to water conservation. Mayor Robert Garcia also began a separate initiative in June 2015, “Mayor’s Initiative to make Long Beach a Model of a Climate Resilient City.” As part of that, the aquarium had a meeting with local experts and stakeholders about the Sea Level Rise (SLR) and Coastal Flooding in Long Beach.

The mayor’s study group cited CoSMoS as being a tool that could provide information for the area as a whole, but might not have the detail needed for areas like the Peninsula and Alamitos Bay. The final report likely will include those, Salk said.

“For example, they’re talking about building an Olympic pool (on the beach near Belmont Shore),” Salk said. “Is that really a good idea? Because we’re going to have sea-level rise.”

The technology used today for studying sea-level rise is advanced, he said, and the forum includes some virtual reality to help people understand.

“As we talk we’ll understand how it’s done,” Salk said of the forum.

Finzi Hart said she will have video clips documenting high tide and people could use Google Cardboard to see a virtual sea level rise.

Also discussed at the forum will be what to do with that information. The advanced technology could help do that with gaming, branding and training, Salk added.

“We’re going to see major sea-level rise in the coming years and it will come suddenly,” Salk said. “If coastal cities want to take action, one solution to that is reducing carbon emissions.”

Another way people can help is by conserving water, he said.

“They can take steps toward water conservation,” he said. “And see how it will affect their lives... We’ll discuss how the community can use this information to make decisions for the long term.”

Reservations are required to the free event in the Ocean Theater at 100 Aquarium Way, as seating is limited. Email kimberlyritter8@verizon.net or call (562) 930-0573.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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