LONG BEACH - The time may be right to talk about climate change.

At least that was the opinion of organizers at a two-day forum hosted by the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

"Surveys show that a huge majority of the American people now believe in global warming," said Tom Bowman, a self-described "science translator" who runs Bowman Global Change, a Signal Hill company that helps organizations create green business plans.

He added that with the economy improving, at least incrementally, the population may be willing to talk about and tackle the large issue.

"I think the economy is improving enough, there's been enough wacky weather, we've had two record heat years, in 2002 we had the wildfires, and there have been intense winter storms at odd times," Bowman said.

Global warming, sea levels rising, droughts, and whether we are facing an El Niño, La Niña or neither weather system this winter were all topics on the table at the two-day forum that concludes today.

The forum, called "Preparing Southern California for Extreme Weather-Related Events: A Pathway to Action," brought together scientists and policymakers to talk about what climate change will look like and what can be done to prepare.

Among those in attendance, there was the feeling that a time of reckoning is upon us.

And, in the words of Jeanine Jones of the California Department of Water Resources, there are no simple solutions. The question that hovers is whether this is an issue with which the public is willing to engage.


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Bowman said that when discussing climate change, it is important to move beyond "polarizing rhetoric" and simplify the discussion.

That is more easily said than done. To many people, "climate change equals government," Bowman said.

Where one falls along the spectrum in the belief that government intervention is good or bad can color perception, he said. As a result, "something as simple as scientific results is imbued with (a bias)," Bowman said.

Coincidentally, the conference took on additional import and resonance as it came on the heels of Superstorm Sandy, although event attendees were much more concerned with West Coast issues like drought and flooding.

Jerry Schubel, president and CEO of the Aquarium of the Pacific, said the seminar had been planned over the past nine months, long before Sandy made headlines.

However, as Schubel noted, "I think (Sandy) underscores how vulnerable we are along the coast."

Dramatic climactic and natural events may be unavoidable, he said.

"We're asking the question, how can we decrease our vulnerability and increase our resiliency," Schubel said. "If we learned anything from Sandy, that's what we should have learned."

Experts, scientists and policymakers in a variety of broad areas related to climate change and what it will mean to Southern California discussed everything from wildfires to flooding and how they are all connected.