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.

 

 

Media coverage of this event:

 

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.

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.

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

Proposed Pio Pico Power Plant: A Costly 25-Year Mistake San Diegans Cannot Afford

power plantSan Diego is at the forefront of America’s advanced energy and transportation revolution accelerating our clean energy future.  That’s why it is disappointing that once again San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) is taking us backwards by proposing a 300 Megawatt natural gas-fired peaker power plant at Pio Pico in Otay Mesa.  Pio Pico is expensive for ratepayers. It hurts our air quality. It commits us to 25 years of carbon emissions that worsen climate change. It delays the inevitable switch to smart, clean, job-creating renewable energy. It isn’t even needed. We urge you to stand with San Diego 350 and other community organizations in speaking against Pio Pico at the Environmental Protection Agency’s permit hearing on December 17.

Expensive for Ratepayers

Pio Pico is projected to cost ratepayers $1.6 billion just to build. Actually generating electricity will cost even more. Generation cost is tied to the price of natural gas.  That price is at an all-time low in the US because of the recent boom in natural gas extraction, but it will likely rise as natural gas is sold on the world market where prices are 3-7 times higher. Costs will be increased further by the premium on carbon emissions, under California’s climate-change mitigation law, AB32. Pio Pico would lock ratepayers into volatile electricity prices for 25 years.

Worsens Already-Poor Air Quality

The American Lung Association’s 2013 State of the Air report scored San Diego County with an F for ozone and particulate matter – both of which would be worsened by Pio Pico.  These pollutants put San Diegans at increased risk for premature death, asthma, lung cancer, reproductive harm, and cardiovascular harm.

Exacerbates Climate Change

Most importantly, Pio Pico is projected to emit 40 million tons of carbon emissions over its lifetime – emissions that the world cannot afford.  Climate science has made it clear that every year of delay in transitioning to renewable energy will significantly increase the consequences and costs of climate change, including more frequent and intense wildfires, droughts, water shortages, heat waves, and coastal flooding.  The battle to end our dependency on fossil fuel is playing out across the country and around the world.  Let San Diego be a shining example that it can be done to everyone’s benefit.

No Urgency for Additional Capacity

Energy experts have provided ample evidence to the California Public Utilities commission that we do not need the $1.6 billion Pio Pico plant to keep the lights on in San Diego.  SDG&E’s request ignores the California Public Utility Commission’s separate and more appropriate comprehensive planning process – the Long-Term Procurement Plan. The Commission should deny SDG&E’s latest scheme to keep us shackled to dirty energy for decades to come.

Smarter Alternatives

Fortunately there are less expensive, cleaner, job-creating alternatives:  efficiency, demand-response, storage and renewable energy.  California has had such great success in reducing its energy demand through energy efficiency that its per capita energy consumption has been flat since 1990.  Energy efficiency programs save more money than they cost, generate jobs and drive high-tech innovation.

As appliances and electronic devices become energy-aware and Internet-connected the amount of electricity demand that can be controlled and time-shifted by utilities is enormous.  For example SDG&E pays residents for the ability to turn off air conditioning units temporarily to reduce peak demand during very hot days.  Demand-response is a very cost-effective way to avoid the need to build new power plants and burden ratepayers with long term costs.  EnerNoc, a demand-response company, manages 25,000 Megawatts of peak load that can be taken offline on short notice.

Where Pio Pico will cost $1.6 billion just to build, and its cost to produce electricity will be tied to rising natural gas prices, an equivalent three-hundred megawatts of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) solar, even at an unsubsidized cost of $5/watt, would cost only $1.5 billion to produce 20-30 years of reliable electricity at a fixed price. Plus solar would create jobs, help California meet its AB32 emission reduction target, and do our part to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Stand With Us Against Pio Pico

These alternative solutions don’t generate carbon emissions or pollution, are cost-effective, and stimulate the economy.  So why are we considering building Pio Pico?  If this doesn’t make sense to you either, as a rate payer and concerned citizen, join us, SanDiego350.org,  in taking action:

Creative Commons License This text by Nicole Peill-Moelter and Kimberly Tomicich is used here by permission of the authors, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License


San Diegans Join Nationwide Protest Against Keystone XL

By Jeffrey Meyer

Mayor Bob Filner and over 500 San Diego protestors in Mission Bay Park joined similar rallies in cities across America Sunday in protest of the Keystone XL Pipeline project, beginning a massive effort to demand President Obama block it and call for leaders at all levels to take action to fight global warming. (Watch coverage on 6 TV stations)

Speaking at the San Diego rally, Mayor Bob Filner expressed his concerns about Keystone, climate change and what he wants to do in San Diego.

Mayor Bob Filner (photo by Diane Lesher)

“If we’re going to save our beaches in San Diego, we need to take our heads out of the sand, especially the tar sands,” he said, imploring the Mission Bay crowd to push President Obama to deny permits for the Canadian pipeline that is part of a massive proposed tar sand mining and pipeline project intended to deliver bitumen slurry to Texas coastal refineries.

Mayor Filner explained that every level of government has to take some responsibility for dealing with global warming and that San Diego can be a national leader in the use of alternative energy sources.

Link to more photos and video

“I want to have solar power in all San Diego public buildings within the next five years,” he said.  “San Diego can lead the nation in the use of alternative energy and moving away from fossil fuels.”

Part of a nationwide protest, with the major rally drawing an estimated 35,000 people today in Washington D.C.,  numerous San Diego groups participated in the rally, cheering numerous speakers,  waving banners and hoisting protest signs.  Major organizers locally were  sandiego350.org, Citizens Climate Lobby, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Health Coalition and Greenpeace.

Also, speaking at the rally, Dr. Jeffrey Severinghaus, director for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Climate-Ocean-Atmosphere Program, said there is an abundance of misinformation about climate on the public airwaves making real climate science more needed than ever.  About 98 percent of climate scientists and researchers around the world agree with Severinghaus that humans, and not nature, are the source for the additional CO2 that is causing global warming.

“There is no such thing as Republican physics or Democratic physics.  Physics is physics.  Accurate science is desperately needed, now more than ever, and that is why I’m speaking up   We need to draw a line in the sand on the use of tar sands,” he said.  “Those who will suffer the most are not yet born.  We need to act now and speak for them.”

Banner on the I-5 overpass (photo by Alex Turner)

He noted San Diegans should show support for a new bill bill to curb carbon pollution introduced this week by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).  “You need to let Boxer know you have her back,” he said about the new bill which has an estimated tax potential of more than a trillion dollars and would be invested in sustainable energy programs, with a large portion returned to taxpayers.

Former State Assemblywoman and present Chair of the Executive Committee of Sierra Club, San Diego chapter, Lori Saldana, also spoke at the rally, offering her perspectives on Keystone and climate change. “We’re here today as part of a nationwide call for President Obama to step up to the plate and stop the Keystone Pipeline once and for all – and to begin implementing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, something that California pioneered,”  she said.

Another speaker, Rev. Dr. Beth Johnson, minister of Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Vista, who has been involved in the environmental movement  for over 20 years,  said “Everything is connected and everything is at stake.”

Elizabeth Perez-Halperin, a Native American, military veteran and green business owner, said “My Native American roots and military experience have influenced me to become an environmentalist and conservationist. The threat of not protecting our environment is a national security issue.”

High-schooler, Tierra Gonzalez-Hammonds (daughter of Lorena Gonzalez, labor leader and candidate for the 80th Assembly District), also spoke, addressing her concerns about her generation’s future in a heated world.

Franco Garcia, of the Environmental Health Coalition, talked about the impacts of climate change on some of the people hardest hit locally. Simon Mayeski, a member of SanDiego350.org, said “It is of utmost importance that President Obama ‘see the light’, show us the leadership we need and reject the XL Pipeline. We need long-term clean energy relief, not a short-term CO2-laden fix.”

Scientists expect the sea level to rise at least three feet by 2100 due to global warming caused by CO2 generated by our use of fossil fuels.  This means that much of Mission Bay and the San Diego area will be covered in several inches of sea water at high tide, and we will have enormous areas subject to flooding during storms.  Sandy beaches up and down the coast could be washed away, destroying property values, wildlife habitat and tourism.  Key climatologists believe the exploitation of tar sands and our relentless release of CO2 will tip our planet’s temperature into a catastrophic nightmare, and unless action is taken now, they say the damage will be irreversible.

Rally banners (photo by Dennis Griffin)

San Diego Climate Mitigation Plans

Under a state mandate, both the City and the Port of San Diego are required to develop climate mitigation and adaptation plans (CMAPs) to address changes in climate, sea level, and other factors that are expected over the next 30 years due to global warming. SanDiego350.org is joining with the San Diego Environmental Health Coalition and other local groups to provide input for both these plans. The next hearing on the City’s CMAP will be in the fall, 2012. We will let you know the date when it is established. The next hearing for the Port’s CMAP will be June 12, at 1:00 pm at the Port Administration Building, 3165 Pacific Highway. The Port Commissioners will be voting only on the emissions reduction goals, not the full plan yet. We encourage you to come out and support strong emissions reduction goals that are in line with state targets for 2020 and 2035.

Human Wave at Mission Beach Shows Sea Level Rise

Connect the Dots! Dot #1: in the last few years we are seeing higher temperatures worldwide and more frequent and severe weather events. Dot #2: this is climate change. Dot #3: climate change is caused by emissions from burning fossil fuel. Dot #4: with rising temperatures, oceans are expanding which will cause more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying coastal communities such as Mission Beach. The sea level rose 7 inches in the past century in our area, and scientists expect it to rise another 12-18 inches by 2050. This means that much of Mission Beach, including homes and businesses, could have several inches of seawater flooding at high tide, and be inundated during storms. The sandy beaches up and down the coast could be washed away, destroying property values, wildlife habitat, and tourism.

On May 5, about 100 San Diego 350ers gathered at Mission Beach to form a human wave symbolizing these events. Walking up the beach waving blue sheets, we showed expected sea level rise by 2050. After speakers told us what we can do to fight this process, we walked back down the beach to show how we can limit these changes if we act now. It is up to us.

Further photos for our event are here.

Bill McKibben Visits with SanDiego350.org

On May 14, 2012, acclaimed author, Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, gave the Keeling Memorial Lecture at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. For an hour prior to his lecture, he met privately with 36 members of San Diego 350.org.

Bill noted that  the fossil fuel industry, the richest industry in the history of the world, is the biggest obstacle to climate action. We have a choice: either a healthy fossil fuel industry or a healthy planet. We cannot match the enormous financial resources of the fossil fuel industry, so we need to build a “people movement” at the grassroots level and put it to work politically. This is what is happening. As 350.org has spread around the world, the movement is made up mainly of “black, brown, Asian, poor, and young people,” which is what most people in the world are.

In light of the upcoming elections, Bill suggested two approaches to confronting the fossil fuel industry in the U.S.: (1) ending oil subsidies which 80% of voters in all parties support and (2) exposing politicians – their financial connections to the fossil fuel industry and their track records on climate change. Perhaps in the next 5 years, a price on carbon may be possible.

Here are a few additional thoughts that came out of the meeting. As happened in the recent fight over the Keystone Oil Pipeline, the climate movement needs to be nimble and agile–able to mobilize quickly to address issues as they come up. We should think globally but act locally and consider doing things that are small enough to be possible but large enough to matter. We have a great resource locally in Scripps Institute where several top scientists are located. We should cooperate with other like-minded groups in the community.

Overall, Bill was encouraging but realistic. He inspired us to keep working for climate change action.

Additional photos from our meeting with Bill are here.