SanDiego350 Applauds President Obama for Keystone XL Veto (Press Release)

Calls on the President to reject the project outright

SAN DIEGO, CA – In San Diego and across the nation today, citizens concerned about climate change applauded as President Barack Obama vetoed legislation that would have forced him to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL). SanDiego350 (SD350), an all-volunteer climate action group, called the presidential veto a battle won in the fight against KXL, but noted that it does not stop the pipeline’s construction. The pipeline would cross an international border, so its ultimate approval rests with the President. SD350 is urging the President to take this last crucial step.

Masada Disenhouse, a co-founder of SD350, said, “Yes, of course I’m happy that the President vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline.  But I’m more anxious for him to finally reject it once and for all.  If he fails to take this action – that is totally within his power to do – then he fails to be the climate leader that the world so desperately needs right now.”

President Obama has promised to disapprove construction of the KXL if it would make climate change significantly worse. Federal agencies and top scientists agree that it would.  The 800,000 barrels of crude oil to be transported daily through KXL will be extracted from the tar-sands of Alberta, Canada. Oil extracted from tar sands crude causes 17% to 22% more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than does oil produced from conventional crude oil. The destination of this particularly dirty crude is the refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, from where most of it would subsequently be exported.

Another SanDiego350 co-founder Janina Moretti said, “KXL would create only about 35 permanent jobs and it’s only in the short-term interests of TransCanada and not at all in the interests of the average American who is already starting to experience disruptive weather events related to climate change.  Looking at it as a Southern Californian, why risk worsening our already critical drought and wild-fire situation to help out a corporation?”

According to climate scientists, we must keep global warming at or below 2° Celsius (or 3.6° Fahrenheit) to avoid the worst impacts. They estimate that, to stay within that limit, humanity must burn no more than 565 gigatons of carbon by 2050. Globally, it is estimated that five times that amount exists in oil, coal and gas reserves, meaning that 80% of these reserves would thus need to be left in the ground to keep global warming within the range recommended by climate scientists. SD350 argues that the extra emissions associated with tar sands crude oil production make the case for leaving it in the ground even stronger.

Noting this link between KXL and climate change, Peg Mitchell, a grandmother and volunteer with SanDiego350, stated, “If I didn’t act to stop this horrifying threat to my grandkids’ future, I couldn’t live with myself. This country should be focused on a moonshot-type effort to get off all fossil fuels now.”

Opponents of KXL include groups concerned with public health. RN Janice Webb, regional director of the California Nurses Association-National Nurses United, weighed in: “Nurses denounce the Keystone pipeline as a danger to public health.  Keystone’s tar sands oil poses a far greater hazard than conventional oil, and has already caused a spike in cancer deaths, renal failure, lupus and hyperthyroidism in Alberta, Canada.  Accidents in oil transport have become all too common and cause disastrous contamination of air and water supplies.  We call on President Obama to stand up for the health of children, the elderly, and all people, and oppose the Keystone Pipeline.”

SanDiego350 and its partners have actively opposed the Keystone pipeline since early 2013, with rallies and “pipeline walks”  in Mission Bay, Mission Beach, Balboa Park, La Jolla, downtown San Diego and even at Comic-Con.  They stand against the endless mining of fossil fuels and for an expedited transition to clean energy. The time is now, they believe, for the President finally to reject KXL outright.

From Comic-Con 2013    
2013 Comic-Con

From Feb 2013 Rally at Mission Bay Photo by Alex Turner
February 2013, Rally at Mission Bay – Photo by Alex Turner

California Nurses Association at downtown KXL vigil, February 2014 by Diane Lesher
February 2014, California Nurses Association at KXL downtown vigil –  Photo by Diane Lesher

Mission Beach. February 2014 - photo by Doug Fowley
February 2014, Mission Beach  – photo by Doug Fowley

###
SanDiego350, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization, is concerned about climate change and its very real effects on our livelihoods, well-being, and the future for our children. We work to increase awareness of climate change and advocate for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We are loosely affiliated with 350.org, the international climate organization, whose work inspires us.

Photo Essay: High Water Line

Martin Luther King Day was a gorgeous winter day in San Diego, perfect for visually demonstrating the effect of climate change on one of our favorite communities, Mission Beach.  Sea-level rise is already starting to affect this popular beach community, and by 2050 high tides will be reaching across Mission Boulevard.  Misson Bay Flooding Map from SD FDN

By the end of the century, if public policy towards climate change doesn’t recognize the threat of sea-level rise, Mission Beach will be mostly under water.  The purpose of demonstrating this threat was to create public support for a stronger Climate Action Plan (CAP) for San Diego in an effort to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change.

Michael Brackney and Linda Case look encouraged by the support of Mike of Kokjaks

Michael Brackney and Linda Case look encouraged by the support of Mike of Kojaks

With the aid of a map showing where the High Water Line (HWL) is likely to be by 2050, the Crowd Engagement Team (CET) planned a “public art installation” event, using a mechanical chalker to create a visual representation of  the HWL along the east-side sidewalk of Mission Boulevard.  The original idea for this event comes from Eve Mosher of Brooklyn, NY.  Find out about events like ours that Eve has inspired at http://www.HighWaterLine.org.

In the two weeks preceding our event, members of the CET and the Media Team canvassed community businesses to tell them about SD350’s plan to stage this event.

Because Mission Beach has already experienced some effects of sea-level rise, notably at high tides during storms, we found that most business owners and residents see the need for stronger public policy to mitigate climate change.  Canvassers were able to gather fifty-three signatures from business owners, employees and residents to urge the San Diego City Council to adopt a stronger Climate Action Plan.

Ray gets a signature from the owners of Arslan's and Vashida's Greek Restaurant.  Some of us returned to eat a late lunch there after the HWL event.

Ray Paulson gets a signature (and a free sample!) from the owners of Arslan’s and Vashida’s Restaurant. Some of us returned to eat a late lunch there after the HWL event.

Jeanne and Ellen: Time to get started.

Jeanne and Ellen are all smiles: Time to get started.

 

On the actual day of the HWL chalking, SD350 volunteers gathered at the north-east corner of Mission Boulevard and Mission Bay Drive.  The eagerness on the faces of CET-leader Jeanne Peterson and record-keeper Ellen Speert (with the clipboard) indicate they’re ready for the day’s action.

 

 

The media showed up right from the start.  Channels 6, 8, 10 and KPBS covered our HWL event.  (See links to media coverage below photo gallery.)

KPBS cameraman films Dwane Brown interviewing Mission Blvd. business owner.

KPBS cameraman films Dwane Brown interviewing Mission Boulevard business owner Jason Daung.

So, how does one go about generating so much interest and media coverage for chalking a high-water line?  You can come along with us as we walk north on Mission Boulevard, chatting with news folks, tourists, residents and business owners along the way..

Leaving Belmont Park's historic roller coaster behind, the line starts north on Mission Blvd.

Leaving behind Belmont Park’s historic roller coaster, the line starts north on Mission Blvd.

Rachel Eggers spreads and sets the chalk line with a broom.

Ellen runs the chalker while Rachel Eggers spreads and sets the chalk line with a broom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael becomes our stenciling expert.  Check out the cool shadow of the stencil!

Check out the cool shadow Michael makes when he carefully lifts the stencil.

Bill Avrin, assisted by 3rd generation Mission Beach resident Robby Shea, gives MIchael a break.

3rd-generation Mission Beach resident Robby Shea joins Bill Avrin, giving Michael a break from stenciling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James chalks a hashtag along the HWL.

James Long chalks a hashtag along the HWL.

Dave Engel inspects his sea-level rise message.

Dave Engel inspects his sea-level-rise message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ray Paulson refills the chalker.

The chalker must be re-filled.  Ray volunteers.

Ellen engages a citizen in conversation about the effects of climate change on sea-level,

Ellen engages a curious citizen in conversation about the effects of climate change on sea-level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Susan Crowe and Michael Zimmer walk the line.

Susan Crowe and Michael Zimmer walk the line.

Ken Brucker talks with employee at   Surf Shop

Ken Brucker talks with Allison Gardner Liquid Foundation Surf Shop

Ralph gets stenciling on film.

Closing in for a detailed shot, Ralph Chaney gets Michael setting a stenciling on film.

Chalkers pass iconic, zero-emissions beach cruiser.

Chalkers pass iconic, zero-emissions beach cruiser.

Ralph gets video footage of Ashley explaining the action for SD350.

Ashley Mazanec explains the action while Ralph films for SD350’s website.

MB attorney John Ready is one of many proprietors who gladly displayed our HWL poster in their windows.

One of many proprietors who gladly displayed our HWL poster in their windows is attorney John Ready.

Michael Brackney chats up a Camaro driver who stopped to see what was going on.

Michael chats up a Porsche driver who stopped to see what was going on.

Sidewalk skater checks out sea-level-rise messages along the HWL.

Like many passers-by, this sidewalk skater checks out sea-level-rise messages along the HWL.

,,, and the line continues

… and the line continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bright white line that started at the corner of Mission Bay Drive and Mission Boulevard went north as far as Pacific Beach Boulevard, a distance of just over a mile. Along the way, SD350 members had many opportunities to converse with people passing by. Vacationers and residents alike were aware of climate change, but many learned something they hadn’t known about one of its damaging effects: sea-level rise, right here in Mission Beach.  That, plus the great media coverage, the good time we all had, and the companionship we enjoyed made the HWL action the success we all hoped it would be.

Many thanks to Bill Avrin for his pictures of the HWL event.  It must also be said that Angela Deegan and Ashley Mazanec of the Media Team were largely responsible for the outstanding media coverage.

 

 

To access media coverage of this event, follow any of these links:

Compilation of TV coverage, excluding Channel 10. I’m not sure who provided this:
http://youtu.be/sGLp9QoL6w4http://youtu.be/sGLp9QoL6w4
 
Photos posted on the SD350 Facebook page:

 

A Simple Guide to Improving Your Home Energy Efficiency

I’m a techie and tinkerer by nature, and as a Sierra Club Life Member, I’m always looking into ways to reduce my carbon footprint. Some of these ideas I came up with on my own, and some of them I learned about in this excellent series written by Daily Kos founder Markos “kos” Moulitsas:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/12/22/1348847/-The-Kos-guide-to-a-carbon-neutral-household-Intro

I’ll talk about them in order of increasing cost.

Live Energy Use Monitoring
One of the first questions you might wonder is “Exactly how much energy is my household using right now?” There is a way to find out your instantaneous energy usage. In order to do this you need to have a smart energy meter installed at your house, and check with your electric utility company to find out which devices it supports. Here is the info for SDG&E:

https://www.sdge.com/residential/about-smart-meters/home-and-business-area-network

I chose the Rainforest Eagle recommended in the kos article. It can be purchased at Amazon.com for about $100.

tn_rainforest_eagle

Once you get the device, you have to go online to register it with SDG&E. They notify you when it has been approved, and then you can install it on your home network. Using either a web browser or smart phone (I use EnergyVue on my Samsung Galaxy S4) you can get an instant “meter” reading for the electric consumption in your house.

energy_vue_app

You can then experiment with turning household appliances on/off to discover which ones are the biggest power draws.

Proximity Sensors for Utility Room Lights
How many times have you gone into your laundry room, turned on the light, and then left it on all day accidentally? I do this a lot. At one of my weekly forays into Home Depot, I was thinking about this and looked in the lighting section to see what kind of automation was available. That’s where I found this:

tn_proximity_light_sensor_1

It automatically turns on the light when I open the laundry room door. Five minutes after I leave, it automatically shuts off. You can also turn it on and off manually. It costs around $20 for one. Also useful in kids’ play rooms or any other room that is infrequently occupied.

The wiring isn’t that hard… (Author’s note: I have Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Electrical Engineering so your definition of “hard” may vary from mine.) Here it is installed in my laundry room.

tn_proximity_light_sensor_2

Switch to LED Lighting
LED lighting prices have come down a lot. They are more expensive up-front than traditional incandescent bulbs, but their electricity consumption is a lot lower, so they pay for themselves over time. You can now get dimmable and 3-way LEDs easily at Home Depot. I also have a lot of chandelier lighting in my house; some of those bulbs I had to order online. The new track lighting I recently installed also could use LED bulbs.

tn_led_floods_4

tn_led_floods_2

tn_led_lights_4

tn_led_lights_3

You have to be careful, though, because LED lights tend to be a little larger than their incandescent counterparts. Bring the old bulb with you to the store and compare its size to the larger LED bulb, keeping in mind the space requirements of the fixture. You may need to take some measurements of the fixture to make sure the new LED bulb fits. I have had to return a few LED bulbs because they were too big to fit in the enclosure.

Get a Smart Thermostat
I got a Nest learning Thermostat last year. They are not cheap at $249. I got mine simply because I hated the controls of my old thermostat. It’s like having an iPod interface for your thermostat.

tn_nest_thermostat_1

Where this can help you conserve energy is that it can be set to “Home” and “Away” modes. In “Away” mode, the house heating or cooling threshold is set for maximum energy conservation. For the first few weeks you manually set “Home” and “Away” when you enter/leave your house. Eventually it learns your patterns and does this automatically.

It also learns how long it takes for your heater or A/C to move the temperature from the “Away” point to the “Home” point and will kick in your heating or cooling system early so your house is at your comfort point by the time you get home. It can also be controlled manually from your smart phone.

nest_app

Have Solar Panels Installed
This is potentially the most expensive endeavor, depending on how you choose your arrangement with the solar installer. Most installers provide both Buy and Lease options. With a Lease Option they lease you the system, but your reduced energy bill plus lease fee will be lower than your existing monthly energy bill.

I went with Stellar Solar and chose to buy the system outright. It was around $21000 installed, but I was able to claim 30% of my installation cost as Federal Tax Credit in 2013. The credit is available through the end of 2016. You can find the details on this and other Federal energy credits here: http://energy.gov/savings/residential-renewable-energy-tax-credit

Energy usage report provided by Stellar Solar to size my solar system:

tn_stellar_solar_usage_report

SDG&E Smart Meter

tn_sdge_smart_meter

Solar inverter install and wiring

tn_solar_install

You can barely see the solar panels on the roof

tn_panels_barely

You can see my Yelp review of Stellar Solar here:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/stellar-solar-san-diego?hrid=PaaMERKlsc9EV09EIyZQVA

The whole process takes several months. There are some permits needed by SDG&E, your electric meter may need to be upgraded, and of course there is the solar panel installation, power inverter, all the wiring, and installing new breakers in your breaker panel. They handled all of this, and I just had to be at the house a few times to give them or the SDG&E inspectors access.

One thing to consider before installing solar panels is the state of your roof. If you have an older house and it is nearing its typical lifespan, you’ll probably want to get it redone before you have solar panels installed. I had an inspection done and decided it was the smart thing to do.

Other Things You Can Do
Now you have an idea of ways to improve your home energy efficiency, ranging from simple to grandiose. There are many areas I haven’t touched upon that you can do. Here a just a few of them:

  1. Replacing a home appliance? Check Consumer Reports reviews for newer energy efficient models that have met Energy Star compliance testing by the EPA. See http://www.energystar.gov/
  2. Getting a bigger TV? LCD, OLED and plasma TV display technologies all have different energy consumptions rates. See http://www.cnet.com/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-tv-power-consumption/
  3. Live in an older house? Have a home energy audit done to see where all your heat is escaping. See https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_audits

The bottom line: Any time you are considering a home improvement project, whether it’s a DIY or you are hiring a professional, add energy efficiency improvement to your list of criteria when making a decision. With a little extra effort, you can save money and help Mother Earth.

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.

Student Fieldtrip: Environmental Justice vs Oil

Twenty-one seniors from King-Chavez Charter High School’s Environmental Justice class made the long trek to Kern County in California’s  Central Valley to view the effects of the oil industry, and fracking in particular, on the land and the residents of the region.

SD350’s Peg Mitchell recently organized an eye-opening trip to the oil fields of Kern County for some of San Diego’s high-school students. Here are some excerpts from the report she sent back:

Friday, December 19th, was the last day of the term for students at the King-Chavez Charter High School in San Diego.  Twenty-one seniors from the Environmental Justice class trekked in the dark to board a school bus at 6AM for a long trip to the oil fields of Kern County.  They had signed on to witness for themselves the impact of of the oil and gas industry, and fracking in particular, on the communities nearby.

KIng-Chavez High School students gather after their five-hour bus trip from San Diego to Kern County.

KIng-Chavez High School students gather after their five-hour bus trip from San Diego to Kern County.

 

Tom Frantz from Association of Irritated Residents (Great name!) began the tour at the “Panorama Overlook”, breathtaking for its view of oil pump jacks in every direction as far as the eye can see. Among the rigs students could spot an occasional power plant, used for heating up water into steam to use in the “cyclic steam injection” process – an older method for releasing the tarry oil to flow up the wellhead an out to the pipelines.

“On many days of the year Bakersfield has the worst air quality in the country,” Tom told the students. “Why doesn’t anyone do anything about that?” asked one. Tom explained the connection between appointments to the air quality boards, the legislative representatives in that area, and the oil companies. “It’s all politics,” he explained, “so nothing ever changes.”

Tom Frantz's stories about the problems created by fracking hold the students' attention.

Tom Frantz’s stories about the problems created by fracking hold the students’ attention.

A retired high school Math teacher, Tom doesn’t accept this status quo. He spends his time traveling around the Kern County oil fields checking up on activities of the oil production industry. He has caught drillers illegally dumping highly polluted toxic “produced water” from fracking operations into fields; he has teamed with other organizations from Texas using special cameras to film methane and other pollutants as they leak from pump sites and compressor stations; and he has discovered leakage and resulting air pollution from open evaporation pits that contain all the waste from oil and gas operations.

Continuing on their bus tour, students witnessed oil rigs placed amidst agricultural fields and one right next to an elementary school, near the town of Shafter.  Next to the school, a gardener turned over soil in the community garden situated in the rig’s shadow. Children at the school suffer from numerous health problems, particularly asthma and respiratory issues.

Across the valley to the West, the tour drove through the heart of Kern’s agricultural areas. Students learned that not only are the oil and gas operations a hazard to public health but, incredibly, so are dairy farms – including one that had 15,000 cows on site, standing in their own waste as far as the eye could see. This waste is yet another hazard as it is moved into open pits where it is occasionally “stirred up” to help release 50% of the ammonia its decay generates into the air. The remaining solid waste is just piled up into mountains of  …

The last stop on the tour was a history lesson: the Belridge Oil fields and the towns of McKittrick and Taft are best known as being the location as well as subject matter of the movie “There Will Be Blood” – a movie about the beginnings of the oil industry in California and the cutthroat dealings that went on to secure land and drilling rights.

Asked about their biggest learning from their Kern County tour, the students’ almost unanimous reply was the proximity of oil drilling to where our food is grown.  The potential hazard to our food source raised great concern among the students. “No doubt the crops are contaminated, at a minimum from air pollution” Tom explained. “But no one really knows,” he said, “because no one tests for anything, because no one really wants to know.”

Because of what they witnessed, these 21 seniors from King-Chavez High School now have strong, disturbing images of the impact that industrialization of the valley has had on the nearby communities, the school children, and even the food they themselves eat. They also have a clear sense of what “environmental justice” means and are, therefore, determined to stay engaged in this issue and help SanDiego350 in future efforts to inform the public.

Trailblazing Effort Needed on San Diego Climate Action Plans

 

Op Ed: Trailblazing Effort Needed on San Diego Climate Action Plans

By Jeffrey Meyer

With the recent release of a new United Nations report on the global impact of climate change, we are given still another chilling warning that we are facing catastrophe unless we accelerate efforts to confront this crisis.

The release of this report comes on the heels of a court decision rejecting the San Diego County climate action plan and the ongoing development of this state-mandated plan by the City of San Diego. It raises the stakes for everyone and compels us to reach higher and dig deeper for community solutions to this crisis.

The warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an urgent signal for our city and county officials to not only meet state laws on reducing greenhouse gas emissions but to explore higher standards. The law establishing minimum requirements for these plans fall under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which was provided guidelines by our Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32).

Critics still chafe at the impact of AB 32 and portray it as a symbol of legislators running amok over the poor and middle class. Their reasoning wrongfully centers on increases at the gas pump of at least 15 cents a gallon and how that will also impact fuel dependent businesses. Those living from paycheck to paycheck are doomed to suffer the most when climate change drives an economic collapse and profit-driven efforts to mislead them have succeeded in creating an immobilized electorate.

The new IPCC report says that climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the planet unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly. This comes on the heels of a new government report released this year showing our nation will suffer $150 billion in economic damages every year that we fail to rein in rising temperatures. Still another recent report found that climate change will cost the nation up to $507 billion in property damages by 2100 if we fail to take action now.

The world and the U.S. political labyrinth suffer a debilitating inertia in dealing with climate change. Even with the new U.S.-China climate agreement the United Nations will likely be unable to agree to an effective climate change agreement in Paris next year. This is why our best efforts to deal with climate change may be through communities like San Diego. We have a capacity for imagining and producing extraordinary opportunities without the excessive bureaucracy embraced by nation states.

There have already been innovative community models developed by Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, London, Vancouver and Melbourne. It has carried to Shenzhen, which is leading the world on urban transportation and to Seoul, leading the world with green energy technology. This phenomena of change is creating new business opportunities and employment for these regions and it can for San Diego as well.

County officials need to return to ground zero and explore better ideas and options for its climate action plan. The appellate court ruling said their plan lacked detailed deadlines and measures to ensure emissions are reduced. If not for the lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club against the county, we would be without a credible county climate action plan. The City of San Diego is still in the adoption phase with its plan to meet mandatory targets and in light of the failed county plan they should reevaluate whether it will accomplish what is required or they could face a similar costly lawsuit.

Just meeting reduction targets set by CEQA and AB 32 is not enough. When they were set eight years ago, there was less known about timelines for adequate action to avoid the projected collapse of economic and ecological systems. This is a trailblazing opportunity for us and we should ask our elected representatives to model a new paradigm for communities to confront climate change and not just fulfill a state mandate.


(Image at top of page: Map taken from page 7 of
San Diego’s Changing Climate: A Regional Wake-Up Call )

 

National Security and Climate Change

“There is a relationship between carbon emissions and our national security.”  General Gordon R. Sullivan (ret,) chairman of the Military Advisory Board and former Army Chief of Staff

RAdm Len Hering Speaks in Coronado about the Effect of Climate Change on National Security 

Human-induced climate change: Is it acknowledged in places that count? There must be institutions in the United States that have to deal with the very real consequences of climate change, and the military is one of them.

Why the military must concern itself with climate change was the topic of  retired Rear Admiral Len Hering’s lecture on Wednesday evening, November 12, at the Coronado Community Center. Entitled National Security and Climate Change, the lecture was sponsored by Citizens Climate Lobby, and Rear Admiral Hering was introduced by Coronado Mayor Casey Tanaka (who, incidentally, rode his bike to the event.)  Hering addressed the problem of a growing human population and the many industrial-age human activities that are degrading the planet, causing climate change and its consequences.  What in particular concerns the military is the increase of national security risks around the globe.

Rear Admiral Hering’s background includes a degree in marine biology and experience dealing with problems related to issues of planet health encountered during his years as a captain in the US Navy, stationed here in San Diego. Following retirement from the Navy, Hering demonstrated leadership with the promotion and installation of sustainable technologies, most notably during his years at the University of San Diego. He is the current Executive Director of the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

Using the following series of maps, Hering made the point that the regions of the earth that will be most affected by extremes of precipitation are the world’s breadbaskets. One salient example he gave was the conflict in Syria, a country now in its 15th year of drought. Because its agricultural output has been seriously degraded by years of drought, Syria is a nation easily destabilized, which is exactly what events in the news tell us has been happening. The crowded Middle East, with dwindling resources to feed an increasing number of inhabitants is the current global poster child for the conflicts that will arise, as people identify with their own ethnic, national or religious group against others in the fight for the most basic of resources, water. In this way, issues of a political and religious nature camouflage the true one: survival of one’s own.

 

This series of maps shows the potential fir future drought as the 21st century progresses.  The maps use the Palmer Drought Severity Index, where a reading of -4 or below is considered extreme.  Regions colored blue or green are considered less likely to experience drought, whereas those in purple and red could face unusually extreme drought.

This series of maps shows the potential fir future drought as the 21st century progresses. The maps use the Palmer Drought Severity Index, where a reading of -4 or below is considered extreme. Regions colored blue or green are considered less likely to experience drought, whereas those in purple and red could face unusually extreme drought.

(Courtesy Wiley Interdisciplinary Review)

Another kind of human suffering described by Hering is the displacement of entire communities due to flooding and sea-level rise.  The example he gave was the loss of small farms in coastal Bangladesh to sea-level rise and flooding from storm surges that render the soil too salty for farming.  Climate-change refugees have spilled over into northeastern India especially.  The obvious result has been deadly conflict between the refugees and the long-time inhabitants of the region where the refugees have been resettling.

Hering’s talk juxtaposed such examples of human dislocation with the wastefulness of human activity in more prosperous industrialized nations.  The clear picture is that the poor will suffer the most, and long before we in the U.S. will feel the most devastating effects of climate change.

The loss of coastal lands will affect many in varying degrees worldwide. Miami and Coronado will see the loss of valuable property, including a prominent military base. The Philippines, with an average altitude of only eight feet faces enormous human losses, not just to sea-level rise but also to intense storms due to its location along the Western Pacific’s Typhoon Alley.  As many as 12 million climate-change refugees will likely be created. Other, smaller Pacific Island nations, balmy paradises like Kiribati, will cease to exist, their inhabitants all becoming refugees.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, causing enormous loss of property and dislocation of mostly poor people.  The inhabited areas of the Philippines, Hering pointed out, is mostly low-lying, averaging only 8 feet in elevation, and therefore vulnerable to sea level rise as well as typhoons.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, causing enormous loss of property and dislocation of mostly poor people. The inhabited areas of the Philippines, Hering pointed out, is mostly low-lying, averaging only 8 feet in elevation, and therefore vulnerable to sea level rise as well as typhoons.

Bringing the consequences closer to our own shores, Hering quoted Admiral Sam Locklear, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, as warning that climate change is the greatest long-term security threat in the Pacific region.

RAdm. Hering explained other climate-change-induced security threats: the opening up Arctic waters, which will give hostile nations greater freedom of movement; ocean warming and the disruption of air and water currents, causing extreme weather events that result in loss of lives, livelihoods and property; the degraded health of the oceans affecting the food chain and ultimately the main source of protein for 70% of the world’s human population; diminished world water supplies causing the devastation of farms and farm-animal husbandry, leading to terrible food insecurities; the thawing of the permafrost which will accelerate the release of methane into the atmosphere and, in turn, further accelerate atmospheric warming.  Some of these are political threats, but others are existential, promoting fear, turmoil, irrational political movements and violence, all serious threats to peace and stability — and, in this globally-connected world, to our own security.

Throughout his lecture, Hering’s passion for confronting climate change and promoting sustainability was dramatized by the tone of his voice and the energy in his gestures. His strong belief in the responsibility of the U.S. and other prosperous and privileged nations came through in every aspect of his talk, which included food waste, general pollution, and industrial degradation as well as climate change.  A photograph of his grandchildren personalized a theme he returned to time and again: This is not about us; it’s about our children and grandchildren, the future of humanity.

SD350’s Activist Training Workshop

It’s a Saturday.  Twenty-five young San Diegans have arisen early to attend SD350.org’s Activist Training Workshop.  Some animated, some earnest, all very engaged – they’re clumped in small groups talking about what they came for: to learn about climate change activism.

WHY AN ACTIVIST TRAINING WORKSHOP

Juan Ahumada, a twenty-something graduate student and teaching assistant in Communications at SDSU, is a little ahead of the game.  He’s already attended an SD350 meeting, and he had this to say about it: “I expected to see more people my age.”  He’d asked the local Green Party where he could volunteer.  They’d directed him to SD350 as being a climate-change group on the move.  Yes, he found, there’s a lot going on here, but where was his generation?  Juan really nailed it again when he expressed disappointment that he was the only hispanic and the only one from South Bay.

We at SD350.org share his disappointment.  I’m retired and I’ve been attending SD350 meetings for almost two years.  I’m continually bewildered that attendance at our meetings reflects my demographic group more than Juan’s.  After all, the younger you are, the more likely it is that you’ll experience the effects of climate change.  Not only that, California is soon to be a minority-majority state.

It looks as if these imbalances at SD350 could be about to change.  Addressing the shortage of young people and minorities involved in the climate-change movement, SD350 sponsored its first Activist Training Workshop.  The workshop is intended to be an outreach to the diverse generation now coming of age in our high schools, colleges, and the workforce.

On Saturday, August 16th, at the Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement at Liberty Station, 25 young adults took advantage of SD350’s Activist Training Workshop.  (Honestly, I’d expected to see maybe a handful, a dozen at best.  What a welcome surprise to see such a response!)  Representing the concerns of their generation were a variety of ethnicities not found in my generation at SD350 meetings and events.  It makes me hopeful to see such a diverse group looking to become active as leaders in our community’s climate-change movement.

WHAT PARTICIPANTS FOUND AT THE WORKSHOP

The youngest workshop participant I interviewed was a high school junior, Amanda Matheson, who belongs to the Environmental Club at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley.  Amanda came to our activist workshop expecting to learn how to approach people about becoming active in caring for the environment and how to present a positive message that individuals can do something.  She also found value in learning how to introduce herself as an activist by creating a personal story.  She’ll be well on her way to making a difference with those skills. Wouldn’t it be great if she could also pass on what she learned to her school’s Environmental Club?

Tyler Patel graduated in Environmental Engineering from UC Merced, where he learned a lot at his lab-assistant job.  He’s now looking for jobs in water resources, water treatment or water distribution.  In addition, he wants to do work as a volunteer in the environmental movement. Tyler finds it inspiring to attend workshops where he can interact with others who are motivated to become activists.  Tyler likes that he’s finding such opportunities in San Diego because this is where he grew up.

Leaving soon for her freshman year at UC Santa Barbara, Sarah Lengua plans to major in Earth Science.  Sarah is learning from this workshop what it takes to be a true activist.  She looks forward to finding opportunities to become active in the climate-change movement on her university campus.  She may discover a 350.org affiliate already exists there, or possibly be instrumental in creating one.

Juan, who noted he’d been a trouble-maker and a ditcher in high school, now directs his energies towards positive action.  He seeks out opportunities to use his education — especially speech and debate — for society’s benefit.  He sees climate-change action as his opportunity to do this.

I hope Juan, as well as Amanda, Tyler, Sarah and twenty-one others found what they were looking for at SD350’s Activist Training Workshop.  I hope they also found out something else: that we were looking for them, too.

Watch for SD350’s New PSA

Have you spotted our PSA on TV, radio, or online?  Tell us!

SanDiego350 is currently contacting over 50 media outlets to air our new climate change Public Service Announcement.  The PSA invites the audience, who may already be concerned about climate change, to become active in the climate movement with SanDiego350. The first TV stations to confirm they would air the PSA, starting July 17, were the Spanish-language Entravision/Univision affiliates KBNT, KDTF, LATV, XHAS and DDTV. Six other stations including Channel 10 KGTV ABC, Channel 8 KFMB CBS, and Channel 9 KUSI have indicated they will try to air it.

The stations aren’t able to tell us when the PSA will air. IF YOU SEE OR HEAR OUR PSA, PLEASE EMAIL Louise Russell at louiserussell9@icloud.com, indicating the station and the approximate time it aired.  That will help us track how the air time is adding up. If you haven’t seen the PSA, here’s what to watch for:

Image for PSA Blog Post-Crop Top

SD350’s PSA invites viewers to join the climate movement.

The 30-second PSA was put together by a team of SanDiego350 volunteers with technical assistance from Gregg Brandalise of Blindfold Studios, Poway (pro bono) and also from Patrick Espinosa of Cypress Productions, San Diego.  It can be viewed at sandiego350.org.

Posted by Bonnie for Louise.

Clean Energy Forum Mobilizes San Diegans

On Saturday, June 21st over 100 San Diego County residents participated in the “Community Choice Energy Forum” put on by Friends of San Diego Clean Energy, a coalition that includes SanDiego350, Sierra Club San Diego, and the San Diego chapter of CalSEIA (the California Solar Energy Industries Association).

The forum was kicked off by clean energy champion and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, who spoke enthusiastically about ramping up renewable energy and moving forward with a strong climate action plan. Supportive Comments were also made by Solana Beach Councilman Peter Zahn, Del Mar Councilman Don Mosier, and Chris Ward, District Director for State Senator Marty Block. SanDiego350’s Bob Braaton gave a heart-felt reflection about why we were there and our task at hand.

There were several great presentations :

  • The World As It Should Be: 100% Clean Energy – Nicole Capretz, policy director for San Diego Council Member Ed Harris
  • The World As It Is: Dirty Power In Our Homes and In Our Politics – Bill Powers and Pete Hasapopoulos, Sierra Club San Diego
  • Breakout Sessions
    • Climate Action Plans – Kayla Race, Environmental Health Coalition
    • Rooftop Revolution – Dave Gersz, CalSEIA / Stellar Solar
    • Power is a Product of Relationship – Pete Hasapopoulos, Sierra Club San Diego
  •  The Marin Clean Energy Story – Shawn Marshall, co-founder, Marin Clean Energy
  • Power is Taken Not Given – Emily Wier, SanDiego350

Photos from the event courtesy of Diane Lesher

Read more about Community Choice Energy and email us to find out how you can help bring it to San Diego.