PRESENT AT THE CREATION

By Ron Bonn, SanDiego350

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 4/20/2017

You could say I was present at the creation.

Looking back in our lives, we rarely know exactly when something started. But regular television news coverage of man-made climate change, with all it implies, started on New Year’s Day, 1970.

Ron Bonn

Ron Bonn, courtesy of the author

The staff of “The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite”: producers, writers, technicians; a couple dozen of us in all, were sitting around the newsroom waiting for something to happen—because nothing happens on New Year’s Day—when the man himself stormed in. “Goddamn it,” he said to us, “we’ve got to do something about this environment story.”

You might guess that when Walter Cronkite said, “Goddamn it,” things happened at CBS News. And what happened is that I, the science producer for “The Evening News,” was detached for eight weeks to “do something” about this environment story. Never before, to my knowledge, had a network spot news program paid that much attention to a non-breaking story. [Read more…]

SECURITY & CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE REVEALS DISTURBING ATTITUDE SHIFT

By Mark Hughes, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the East County Magazine on 3/5/2017)

On February 21, 2017, an audience of approximately 75 attended the Security & Climate Change: Issues and Perspectives conference, held in the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park. Organized and funded by The Center for Climate and Security (with the support of The San Diego Foundation and Skoll Global Threats Fund). The program focused on the threat climate change imposes on world stability, the burden it puts on the US military, and what they, as well as our local and state governments, are doing to plan for the consequences. The conference was followed by a screening of a new documentary entitled “The Age of Consequences.”

Veteran's Museum

Veterans Museum in Balboa Park. Photo courtesy of the author.

The Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, started the conference by noting that the city has been diligently working toward sustainability. Evidence of that effort, to name only two, include the city’s enforceable Climate Action Plan (CAP) as well as the largest water recycling effort in the western hemisphere. These projects could not be done without the close cooperation of the military based here (1 in 6 of the Navy’s personnel reside in San Diego, 1 in 4 of the Marines). San Diego, he said, sets the bar, leads the way toward positive, innovative change. [Read more…]

The Benefits of Community Choice Energy – and How California Utilities Aim to Block Them

Originally Published in the San Diego Free Press on 12/22/2016

by Tyson Siegele

In California, the fight is on between renewable energy advocates and the old guard electric utilities. All across California, cities and counties have been moving to implement Community Choice programs because they provide cheaper, cleaner, locally generated electricity. In fact these programs are so good, the utilities hope you never hear about them.

how-it-words-graphic

Community Choice Energy delivery model. The CCE provides energy, the utility provides transmission, and you receive cleaner, cheaper energy. Source: Peninsula Clean Energy

Before we get to the conflict and intrigue, let’s look at the basics of this new approach to buying electricity. Community Choice Energy, also known as Community Choice Aggregation, is a way for cities, counties or regions in California to look out for their own energy interests, a hybrid between regulated and deregulated electricity supply. The local utility still provides all of the billing services and infrastructure to supply electricity to the point of use, but they are no longer responsible for selecting the electricity supplier. Instead, the community chooses its energy supplier. Possibly the best part of a Community Choice Energy program is that it allows us choice. While CCEs across the state offer electricity with significantly more renewable content—and at lower costs than the utility—customers can still choose to stay with the status quo. No one is required to buy CCE power, anyone can opt-out. By example, let’s look at an actual program. [Read more…]

San Diegans Voice Concerns to State Officials About Air Quality, Environmental Justice, and Climate Change

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, July 28th, 2016

What do you get when you bring together 120 environmental activists and residents from environmental justice communities in a room with a dozen state regulators? If you’re lucky, dozens of ideas for incentivizing renewable energy, improving public transit, and protecting neighborhoods from toxic industrial fumes.

This is exactly what happened on July 14th when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) sponsored a workshop on climate change at the beautiful new Cesar Chavez campus in Barrio Logan. Local residents, whose voices are rarely heard by policy makers in Sacramento, came out in force to speak out about air pollution from local industry, the need for better transit options, and the impacts of climate change on communities already impacted by poor air quality. [Read more…]

North County Coastal Cities’ Progress On Clean Energy Initiatives

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, June 23rd 2016

During the past year, the San Diego North County Coastal cities have taken steps forward in implementing their Climate Action Plans (CAP) and studying Community Choice Energy (CCE) initiatives, which will enhance their ability to significantly increase their use of Clean Energy in the future.

Three of the cities – Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Del Mar – have formally approved their Climate ActionPlans. The Encinitas Climate Action Plan was approved in March 2011. It was not tied to a General Plan and therefore had purely voluntary measures. This month however, the Encinitas City Council voted to draft a new, enforceable Climate Action Plan as mitigation for the housing element of their General Plan and to allocate $100,000 towards its development.

Encinitas June 15th 2016 City Council Meeting

Encinitas June 15th 2016 City Council Meeting (Photo courtesy of Climate Action Campaign)

The Carlsbad Plan was approved in October 2015. Del Mar’s recently-approved Climate Plan included the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2035, thereby following the example put forward by the City of San Diego CAP last year. Solana Beach has recently formed a Climate Action Commission to develop their Climate Action Plan, and Oceanside has also recently started to develop their Climate Plan as well. Having these Climate Action Plan documents approved and in process is a good indication that the five North County cities will all have strong climate action goals to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Many of the efforts to support and review the Climate Action Plans and to promote Community Choice Energy [Read more…]

San Diegans in LA Action to Break Free from Fossil Fuels

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, May 26th 2016

Over a two week period earlier this month, a wave of
Break Free from Fossil Fuels mass mobilizations was held around the globe. The first action saw hundreds of people peacefully shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine in Wales. In the Philippines, 10,000 marched demanding the cancellation of a proposed 600-Megawatt coal power plant. In Australia, 2,000 people shut down the world’s largest coal port for a day, with kayakers blocking the harbor entrance while others blocked a critical rail crossing. In Anacortes, Washington, over the course of three days, thousands converged by land and water at the site of two oil refineries. They marched, led by indigenous leaders, and held an overnight sit-in on the train tracks that led to over 50 arrests.  

These were but a few of the many Break Free actions in the campaign which was organized by 350.org with support and participation from a wide range of international, national and local organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, National Nurses United and the United Church of Christ.

Figure 9 -BillMcKibbenWithSanDiegans AtBreakFreeLA

San Diegans with Bill McKibben – sporting his SD350 tee-shirt – at the end of the march

Closer to home, Los Angeles was the venue for a Break Free from Fossil Fuels action for people from all over California. Los Angeles is the biggest urban center for oil production in the nation and the Porter Ranch neighborhood was recently the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history from SoCalGas’  Aliso Canyon gas storage facility.

The LA event started with a rally at City Hall which included high-profile speakers Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org) and businessman, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer, plus speakers from many local groups, including Save Porter Ranch and STAND LA – a group dedicated to ending neighborhood oil drilling in LA. McKibben reminded us of our “brothers and sisters around the world who right now are standing with you.”  He talked about the worsening climate crisis – recent loss of coral reefs in the Pacific and the heatwave in Southeast Asia. He said it’s important we turn up the heat and demand real leadership from Mayor Garcetti and Governor Brown, saying we don’t need them to do a “pretty good job”, we “need them really out in front treating it [climate change] like the crisis that it is.” [Read more…]

TransNet Tax Increase – SANDAG Course-correct Opportunity

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on February 25th, 2016

A region doesn’t become environmentally friendly by accident; it does so through careful, ambitious planning with the good of future generations in mind. In this regard, the San Diego region now finds itself at a crossroads.

Through the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the region’s planning agency, we now have the opportunity to begin realizing an environmentally friendly future in the San Diego region for many years to come. SANDAG recently announced that it will consider putting forth a ballot measure that will increase the TransNet sales tax by half a cent. Pending voter approval, such an increase would mean billions of additional dollars for transportation projects in coming decades. Although SANDAG may do the opposite, this money should be spent on projects that will mitigate climate change and protect San Diego’s most vulnerable populations. [Read more…]

In Deep: Sea-Level Rise and San Diego

As we burn more fossil fuels, and thus pump more heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we are changing every aspect of earth’s climate system. One of the many consequences is that the sea is rising.

On January 19, San Diego 350 will stage a simple action to help make people more aware of what rising seas mean to San Diego right now, as well as in the future. We’re going to Mission Bay, which is pretty much ground-zero for sea-level rise in our county, to mark out where the high-water line is likely to be in about thirty years. Come join us. It’s pretty striking where that line will be.

This page will give you some of the background on why this action is important. We’ll fill you in on what is causing the sea to rise, how it is likely to rise over time, and why it matters to us in San Diego.

Why the sea is rising.The sea is rising now because [1,2,3] water expands as it warms, like the mercury in a thermometer. It is also rising because higher temperatures are melting glaciers worldwide. Even the great Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are beginning, gradually, but possibly inexorably, to melt and slide into the sea. The world’s average sea level has already risen about eight inches since the start of the Industrial Revolution [1,2,3]. How far and how fast it rises in the future depends on how much fossil fuel we continue to burn and how rapidly the great ice sheets respond to the warming climate. Though both of these factors are hard to predict [1,2,3], one recent estimate is that global average sea level is likely to rise 12 to 18 inches by 2050, and 36 to 55 inches by 2100 [4]. It could rise 30 or 40 feet over the next few centuries, if the Greenland [3,5] and West Antarctic [6] ice sheets collapse.

Here and now. Though 12 to 18 inches over a few decades might not seem like much, sea-level rise is something we need to deal with, right here in San Diego. The map below, from a report by the San Diego Foundation [7], shows what even a little sea-level rise can do to a low-lying area such as Mission Beach. By 2050, roughly half of Mission Beach will likely be flooded at high tide. Much of the rest would be flooded about once in five years, when higher sea levels, high tides and waves from big storms combine.

Sea-level rise will flood Mission Beach by 2050

Rising seas will likely flood much of San Diego’s Mission Beach by 2050. The area in purple would be flooded at high tide. The area in blue would be flooded about once in five years, when storm-driven waves come on top of rising seas and high tide. (Source: San Diego Foundation/California Climate Change Center.)

That flooding is going to cost San Diegans real money. Our quick check of real-estate listings suggests that property in Mission Beach costs about $20 Million to $40 Million per acre. At those prices, the property within the five-year flooded area on the map below is worth roughly $1 to 2 Billion. That estimate is very crude, of course, but it does indicate that sea-level rise can have real economic consequences.

2050 is only thirty-five years away. That’s about the length of a typical mortgage. It’s well within the time-scale on which we make plans for our lives, including our plans for financial security. If your financial planning includes property in Mission Beach, sea-level rise is something you need to think about, right now.

More than flooding. The rising sea will do more than flood property. It will exacerbate the loss of beaches that we are already suffering [8]. It will shrink what little is left of our coastal wetlands [9,10]. Those wetlands are nurseries for fish and shellfish, vital habitat for endangered birds and other wildlife, and natural filters for the polluted runoff from our streets [11,12].

Rising seas will also increase coastal erosion [13,14], which is already a problem in many San Diego communities such as Solana Beach [15], Carlsbad, Encinitas and others. California as a whole could lose 41 square miles of land to the sea by 2100 [16]. That’s equivalent to erasing a strip of land 200 feet wide along our entire 1100-mile coast. However, the actual erosion would be concentrated in certain areas, so the loss in those places would be even greater.

Too much of the wrong kind of water. One of San Diego’s biggest rising-sea problems is happening hundreds of miles away, in the San Francisco Bay Delta.

The Delta is a vast, low-lying maze of channels, fed by the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers and emptying into San Francisco Bay [17,18]. Much of Southern California’s water [17,18], including 20 to 30 % of San Diego’s [19], is pumped from a collection point in the Delta.

Jones-Levee-Break-berkeley-coutesy dwr

Sea-level rise increases the risk of a severe levee break in the San Francisco Bay Delta, which could shut down much of Southern California’s water supply for months. (Photo: CA Dept. of Water Resources.)

The problem is that the water level in the channels needs to stay a certain distance above sea level, to keep out the salt water that tries to push its way in from the Bay [18,20]. Yet, the reclaimed ground between the channels has sunk as much as 15 feet below sea level [17]. The water in the system is precariously kept above sea level by 1100 miles of aging levees. If those levees break at the wrong place, the water in the channels will drop, sea water will flood into the channels from the Bay, and the water supply for 25 million Californians [18] will be ruined for weeks or months [20]. As the sea rises, the water level in the Delta, and the pressure on those rotting levees, must increase. Sea-level rise is thus one of several factors that are making this vital water system unsustainable [18,20].

Our governor has advocated a possible fix that would cost $23 Billion [21]. That’s $600 for every person in the state. In this sense, the rising sea is costing us all real money, no matter how far above sea level we live. Our perilous water system is one very concrete example of how we are connected in surprising ways to places far away, and how much our well being depends on public policy that recognizes the reality of our changing environment.

Beyond San Diego. Of course, sea-level rise affects far more than our city and our state. The United States has more than $1 Trillion worth of infrastructure at risk of going under water, with just a two-foot rise in sea level [2]. Many American cities are at increasing risk of flooding at high tide [22]. That risk is especially high on the East and Gulf Coasts. There, sea-level rise is compounded because the land is sinking and the slowdown of the Gulf Stream – itself a consequence of global warming – is pushing the sea upward along the shore [23] .

Sea-level rise increases hurricane flooding.

A foot or two of sea-level rise can greatly increase the area flooded in a hurricane. (Photo: NOAA)

In addition, in many America cities, a small rise in sea level can markedly increase the risks of flooding during severe storms. In San Francisco Bay, with sea levels just six inches higher, a relatively routine storm, such as might come along once a decade, could produce the same flooding that a much more severe, once-a-century storm would have produced before [24]. In Long Island Sound, a 19-inch rise in sea level would increase the property loss due to storm surge by 73% [25]. If the sea had been that high during Hurricane Sandy, coastal flooding losses would have been nearly $14 Billion. [26. See table, “The ten most significant flood events by National Flood Insurance payouts.”]

Along America’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts, more than 4 million homes worth more than $1 Trillion are at risk from hurricane storm-surge damage today. [26. See table, “Total potential residential exposure to hurricane storm-surge damage in coastal states.”] Higher sea levels will make this risk even greater. With so much investment at stake, rising seas are a very important factor in our nation’s economic security.

The future is now. The risks to Mission Bay, our Delta water system, and our nation’s infrastructure are examples of the very practical reasons why we need to mitigate climate change right now. But an even bigger reason is that our choices today will determine so much of the future, for such a long time to come.

Our responsibility to the future is spelled out by the physical processes that are causing the sea to rise. Those processes have several implications. First, the fossil fuels we burn today will affect the climate for hundreds or thousands of years, because the carbon dioxide we emit today will stay in the atmosphere that long [27,28,29]. Second, depending on how much carbon dioxide we allow to accumulate, the sea could rise by a tremendous amount over the next few hundred years: 23 feet if the Greenland ice sheet melted [5], another 15 feet if the West Antarctic ice sheet collapsed [6], even 70 feet if parts of the East Antarctic ice sheet collapsed as well [30]. Third, we are in deeper than we realize: As the heat slowly mixes down into the ocean and the ice sheets slide slowly downhill, the sea will continue to rise for centuries, just based on the greenhouse gases we have already emitted [3,5,6,31,32,33]. Yet, fourth, it is never too late to act: Although we have already caused a certain amount of sea-level rise that will unfold over time, we can always keep it from rising faster and farther by burning less fossil fuel [2,3,5,6,31,32,33].

Our action on January 19 is our effort to alert our fellow San Diegans to the reality of sea-level rise, its importance for us here and now, and the responsibility we have to every person who lives after us. We hope you will join us in Mission Beach, to see one small example of how real that responsibility is.

 

Thanks to George for his hard work researching sea-level rise, and to Bonnie for her thoughtful critique.

Creative Commons License This text is used here by permission of the author, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Vigil and Protest Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Join Thousands across Country in Calling on President Obama to Deny Permit to Canadian Pipeline

San Diegans will gather Monday for a candlelight vigil to send President Obama a message that he must not allow Canadian oil interests to build the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) across America. Reacting to the final environmental impact statement (EIS) released today by the State Department that gives Obama political cover to approve the pipeline permit, organizers are appealing to the public to join the growing movement to convince the President that the KXL is not in our national interest.  Hundreds of other vigils will also occur Monday across the country.

WHEN:      Monday, February 3, 2014 at 6 PM

WHERE:     In front of the Federal Building, 880 Front Street, San Diego

WHAT:      Candlelight vigil with songs, chanting, and speakers to call on President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline proposal

VISUALS:   Signs, candles, and many local opponents of the keystone pipeline

Organizers say the public is the last line of defense in confronting the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  The EIS triggers a 90-day “national interest determination” by the State Department, with input from relevant federal agencies, before it provides a recommendation to President Obama for final approval. In recent months the Keystone Pipeline has become a battleground between the fossil fuel industry and environmentalists, ranchers, faith communities and neighborhood groups concerned about the loss of life and economic and environmental devastation created by climate change.

While Obama has admitted that he has doubts about the KXL (he called the oil industry’s job-creating claims an exaggeration and said he would not let the project proceed if there was a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions), organizers of the vigil fear the new State Department report reflects the influence of the wealthy oil industry on the review process.  Climate scientists have stated that two thirds of all known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we wish to avert the worst impacts of climate change, especially carbon-dense fossil fuels like the Canadian tar sands. NASA scientist James Hansen famously called the KXL “Game over for the climate”. Along with other environmental groups across the nation, San Diego activists have decided to draw a line with Keystone, making a stand to stop the endless mining of fossil fuels and expedite the transition to clean energy sources.

The vigil is organized by SanDiego350.org with support from Citizens Climate LobbySierra Club San DiegoWomen Occupy San Diego and other local organizations. Local Keystone opponents held a rally opposing the pipeline at MissionBay in February 2013 with over 500 participants, and another in September 2013 at the Federal Building with over 200 participants.

To participate in #NoKXL action against the Keystone Pipeline, join us on Monday:

https://actionnetwork.org/events/keystone-pipeline-vigil-san-diego.

The event is organized by SanDiego350.org with support from Citizens Climate LobbySierra Club San DiegoWomen Occupy San Diego and other local organizations.

The above was written by Jeffrey Meyer and Masada Disenhouse, volunteers for San Diego 350.org

SD350 Very Disappointed in Obama’s State of the Union

Activists Say He Has Failed Our Country at its Most Critical Hour

SAN DIEGO – A local environmental group was “very disappointed” in President Obama’s State of the Union speech, saying he has failed the country at its most critical hour in the battle over climate change.  They say his vacillating policy on energy may even lead to local civil disobedience actions in the next few months, due to the uncertainty of his leadership on climate change issues.

“How can he tell the nation we have a climate change threat and in his next breath, extol his efforts to achieve a historic boom in oil and natural gas drilling,” asked one of the founders of SanDiego350.org, Masada Disenhouse.  “If this president really is worried about our children’s children as he says, then he has to stop waffling on what to do about climate change.”

At a national level, 18 environmental groups sent Obama a letter just days before his speech, pointing out the contradiction in his energy policy of increasing oil and gas production while attempting to reduce pollution from fossil fuels.  After his speech, most were furious about his failure to explain his confusing national energy policy. SanDiego350.org expressed serious doubts about that energy policy, especially concerning fracking, which threatens central and southern California.

“In southern California we face an enormous conflict with fossil fuel corporations over their intent to frack oil and gas, creating a multitude of threats to our communities and our dwindling water supply.  There was not one word from Obama on fracking, beyond his boasting of a surge of oil and gas production during his administration,” said Peg Mitchell, who has led the local community in its resistance to fracking.  “We are pleased with some of progress he has made, but this opportunity to address climate change on a national stage was a complete failure.”

Obama’s speech has made the San Diego environmental community especially concerned about his upcoming decision on  granting a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would be a gateway from Canada to the Texas coastal refineries for tar sands oil slurry.    The Keystone proposal is to mine 140,200 square kilometers of boreal forest in Alberta, Canada and build pipelines to deliver the bitumen slurry to the Texas coast to create refined petroleum products, like gasoline, primarily for export.  These products simply can’t be used, according to numerous international climate organizations, because research shows two thirds of existing fossil fuel reserves have to stay in the ground if we are to keep global warming below 2°C.

Along with other environmental groups across the nation, San Diego activists have decided to draw a line with Keystone, making a stand to stop the endless mining of fossil fuels and force the development of alternative energy sources.  SanDiego350.org released a statement in response to Obama’s speech that they have developed civil disobedience plans to protest the approval of this pipeline, should it appear that Obama will approve the Keystone permit.

To participate in action against the Keystone Pipeline, join us on Monday:

https://actionnetwork.org/events/keystone-pipeline-vigil-san-diego.

The above was written by Jeffrey Meyer, volunteer for San Diego 350.org