For the past few months a supercomputer with UCLA researchers at its helm has been trying to figure out what the weather will be like in Los Angeles in the middle of the 21st century. You'd hope that somewhere in there it would find some good news. Maybe we'll get decades of consecutive weeks of 72-degree days, like Steve Martin reported in LA Story? Not so much. 

The computer's human teammates from UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability announced yesterday that the Los Angeles of the not-so-distant future might, in many places, feel like the Phoenix of today. The glorious climate that has made the LA basin—and even its inland valleys for most of the year—one of the most liveable and energy-efficient areas in the world is going to become a thing of the past. 

The study projects temperatures in geographic increments of 2.5 square miles and estimates the number of days above 95 degrees that each respective piece of the Los Angeles region will experience. So if you're planning on cooking an egg on a sidewalk in 2050, the study can tell you which sidewalk to choose. 

Today, Palm Springs experiences 75 days of 95-plus degree heat; in 30 years, that number may increase to 119 – one-third of the year. Some parts fo the San Fernando Valley will go from eight days to a full month. In downtown Los Angeles, they'll be loosening ties, with thrice as many days of 95-plus degree temperatures than today. 

(To arrive at these numbers, UCLA's computer analyzed 25 climate change scenarios with 1 quintillion calculations over six months.  That figure is so huge that I don't see much point in comparing it to anything else, like grains of sand on all the world's beaches. Let's just say that it's so big that it takes the world's fastest computers six months to do that many calculations.)

Supporters of the study describe its results—and the minute scale on which the results were calculated—as a way for Angelenos to apprehend the real effects of climate change. It is no longer a debatable, abstract possibility but, indeed, a nearly unavoidable reality that will hit every neighborhood in the city. This tangibility, they hope, will lead to action. 

I heard this news the very same day that I read the Economist special report on the demise of the Arctic. (The Economist, like this publication, does not question the legitimacy of human-induced climate change.) The Economist reports that warming in the Arctic is advancing more quickly—and, potentially, with more devastating results than in any other part of the planet. I've rarely felt so helpless, and hopeless, as I did reading about devastation thousands of miles away and beyond any shred of my control: the extinction of polar bears and, most alarmingly, the 200 gigatons of icecap that Greenland is losing each year. Petroleum companies can't wait to bid for the rights to drill on tundra that will be liberated by disappearing ice. 

Even if the Arctic is doomed, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has announced a comprehensive adaptation plan, called C-Change.LA. The program describes different adaptation strategies for the L.A. basin and the San Fernando Valley. Though Los Angeles commissioned the study, it's safe to assume that the statewide effects of climate change will be no less dramatic than they are in LA. And cities that don't yet have similar programs should probably be thinking about them.

As every planner in California knows, Senate Bill 375 is trying to address matters at the state level. I think we all know that the 5-15% per capita reductions—that's per capita, not gross—isn't going to save a single polar bear. It's a symbolic gesture, but it's still a powerful one, on several levels. 

On the practical level, California will at least get better cities, even as the asphalt melts at every doorstep. Living in denser neighborhoods, we Californians can at least enjoy each other's company in what may otherwise be a generation of misery. (We may, in fact, be living in the last, best times, depending how the coming catastrophe plays out.) 

Even more importantly, SB 375 is an adaptation strategy wrapped in the guise of a mitigation strategy. My guess is that SB 375 garnered support because it holds the promise of making things better. That's a lot more pleasant than is the notion of merely trying to get along. It's the difference between curing a disease and just learning to live with the suffering. 

Beyond SB 375's 2035 horizon, a different paradigm is going to have to set in. SB 375 quite would have every city figure out its own ways to grow more dense and take advantage of public transit and other transportation options. The future cannot be so democratic.

The UCLA study tells us that the L.A. region's complex geography will create wildly different scenarios throughout the city. Some places will become far less liveable than others. Predictably, the San Fernando Valley will broil, while the Westside will, as ever, remain tolerable. Except in Venice, which, depending how much the seas expand and storm patterns shift, might start to resemble its namesake. (The latest bit of news calls for 5-foot rises.) As such, it stands to reason that places that will experience more dramatic change need to think about more dramatic adaptation measures. We can imagine how similar studies would play out throughout California and across its violent topography. 

None of this lamentation is to suggest that we Californians (and everyone else who drives cars and uses electricity) do not share some of the blame for creating this catastrophe. Then again, most of the damage took place long before anyone living was now born, and we have all inherited an economic and literal infrastructure that has all but forced us to perpetuate destructive habits. But now we know what we have wrought, and we know it in fine detail. 

For as much as I've written about SB 375, I've rarely written on climate change itself. But as I write this and imagine what this nice July day will be like three decades hence, it's hard not to think about the other method that humans have cooked up for destroying the planet: nuclear weapons. In The Fate of the Earth, Jonathan Schell describes the morbid paradox that might actually keep the human race alive: the more we think about the horrors of nuclear war and the more we believe that nuclear war could happen, the less likely it is that anyone will actually push the button. Horror, he contends, will keep us safe. If only averting climate change was that easy.

Across this country, a plague of ignorance, indignance, and opportunism has condemned Los Angeles to its fate, and it surely has done far worse for many more places. The Arctic ice cap may be history, but at least Pacoima can cope.