With age, regular physicals become more important to a person’s health. Such is also the case with climate assessments and the environment, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger explained during an interview with the Daily Trojan on Monday.
Schwarzenegger will speak at USC on April 8 during a public comment forum in which regional scientists will present stark findings from a draft chapter of the third National Climate Assessment.
The Southwest Region chapter, which includes California, projects that effects of climate change might include decreasing water supplies for cities and agriculture, increases in wildfires and rising sea levels. Presenters will discuss climate research on subjects ranging from the water supply to tree mortality.
“[A physical] gives an evaluation of your body and what you can do to protect it down the line so you don’t continue that trend,” Schwarzenegger said. “And this is what this assessment report does. It gives you an idea of where we are and where we go with that and what we need to do in order to improve the situation.”
USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute and the Center for Sustainable Cities, which opened in September, will host the forum. Through sponsoring the event, the institute hopes to shine a spotlight on an issue that normally would receive little attention.
“This report was kind of a low-key issue that would just go by and be just another report that I don’t think many people would pay attention to,” Schwarzenegger said. “And we then try to make sure that the media does pay attention to it and report on it.”
Several scientists presenting at the forum commented on the importance of raising awareness for climate trends. University of Arizona Professor Thomas Swetnam, who will present findings on tree mortality, said the media has not accurately captured the magnitude of climate change.
“There really hasn’t been that much media coverage of the impacts that have occurred and are likely to occur,” Swetnam said.
A Media Matters report from last year shows that about 9 percent of television segments and 26 percent of print articles covered the record-breaking heat last July.
David Pierce, a Scripps College climate researcher studying water issues in Southern California, noted that it’s particularly important to be conscious of climate change predictions for infrastructure planning.
“Forewarned is forewarned,” he said. “I should mention any changes to water infrastructure or water allocation can take decades to accomplish. It’s better to start your planning on any adaptation early rather than waiting too long.”
Scientists argued the issues presented in the report could have serious ramifications that the public should be attuned to. Swetnam warned that climate change could threaten iconic tree species, even California’s giant sequoia.
“Is climate going to change enough to cause a loss of some of these national treasures? Right now science is suggesting yes, they are at risk,” Swetnam said. “So we need to take action.”
Schwarzenegger, who actively worked to curb climate change as governor, said he hopes to reach a broader audience by using the institute to spotlight the report.
“It is global warming and not just California warming. There is only so much we can do as a state,” Schwarzenegger said. “I think that the institute has given me the platform to talk to the rest of the world, especially to all the academic institutions around the world.”
Schwarzenegger is planning on writing a letter to the president and congressional leaders after Monday’s forum, according to Bonnie Reiss, the institute’s global director.
The hearing came about when Hilda Blanco, interim director of the USC Center for Sustainable Cities and a lead author of the chapter, approached Reiss with the primary motivation of bringing more attention to the issue.
“She came and she said, ‘Sadly, this is the third scientific report in 23 years, and it has very dramatic findings and it won’t get attention,’” Reiss said.
Using a university as the forum’s setting is important to Schwarzenegger because he believes students should be more involved in the political process.
“The key thing with all of this is to inspire the students to get involved because I believe that the mistake that has been made in the past is that we always look to government for the answers and the solutions,” Schwarzenegger said. “But, in fact, we should challenge the average person — everybody — out there to participate because that’s how movements become successful.”
The forum will be held in Lewis Hall auditorium on April 8 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Public comment on the third National Climate Assessment draft ends on April 12 and can be submitted online.