ArtBuild

A Road-to-Paris Team Work Party

On November 29th, 46 volunteers — some veterans, some new folks — showed up to help paint the grand banner — our 180-foot long red line that must not be crossed — plus posters, placards, and various types of signs for the December 12th March for Climate Justice through Balboa Park.

Outside in the shade on the north side of the Centro Cultural de la Raza, a dozen or so volunteers painted white text onto the long red banner.  It was a little chilly, especially when the breezes came through, but everyone was engrossed in the task of painting within the lines.

Jean Costa and Jane Blount paint "100% clean energy" onto long red banner.

Jean and Jane paint “100% clean energy” onto their portion of the long red banner.

Colleen Dietzel worksalong at mid-banner, or about 90 feet

Colleen works along at mid-banner, or about 90 feet.

The banner snaked into the kitchen and onto the table.  A piece of it even greeted volunteers beside the front door!  180 feet is a lot of fabric to paint! [Read more…]

The Pope heard round the world

By Hutton Marshall
Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on September 24th 2015

The Pope is in town.

Not this town, unfortunately — he’s in Washington, D.C.  Today, Pope Francis will give a historic address to Congress, where he is expected to speak on the escalating climate change crisis. This closely watched event will further solidify his stature as an acknowledged global leader of the climate change movement.  He caps the year in Paris with an address to world leaders at the UN-sponsored climate-change summit COPS 2015.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis released his Encyclical Letter entitled “On Care for our Common Home.”  A passionate, comprehensive 40,000-word exhortation about caring for the planet, the Encyclical weaves modern climate science together with teachings from Catholicism and other religions, to build the case that caring for Earth’s climate is a moral obligation, a matter of justice for the poor and vulnerable. He thus breaks down the barriers between religion and science, and between environmental stewardship and social justice. [Read more…]

SANDAG’s RTP is stuck in reverse

By Hutton Marshall
Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on August 26th 2015

Climate change is a local issue that reaches every corner of the globe. Human activities, especially burning coal, oil and gas, are pumping heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. More than any other time in human history, we’re seeing unlivable marine habitats, rising seas that threaten to subsume coastal societies, and, on land, increases in extreme weather including droughts, floods and severe storms. The changes are happening everywhere, but the effects are felt locally. And the solutions have to come from changes we make in every community.

At SanDiego350, a local nonprofit fighting climate change, we believe that San Diego is at an important crossroads where we must decide how we will reduce our contribution to Earth’s looming climate crisis.  Here in the San Diego Free Press we’ll discuss some of these issues, and how San Diegans can help address them. [Read more…]

Notes from a Climate Conference Junkie, Part 1

by James Long

Folk singer Pete Seeger, age 94, at his home on the Hudson River, where he was interviewed for Pando Populus.

Folk singer Pete Seeger, age 94, at his home on the Hudson River, where he was interviewed for Pando Populus.

I started my journey singing with Pete Seeger and ended it three weeks later with the fiery intellectual Cornel West! I just got back from Pando Populus in Claremont, California, and the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland, Oregon. After 25 to 30 lectures — together with great music, stimulating presenters and a lot of new friends — I’m ready to get down to the business of local organizing for climate action.  But first, I’d like to share my notes about these inspiring conferences. I’ll tell you about Pando Populus this time, and the UU Assembly in a second posting.

What is Pando Populus?

"Seizing an alternative" logo from the Pando Populuus conference.

“Seizing an alternative” logo from the Pando Populuus conference.

The name Pando Populus refers to a Utah aspen grove that may be the oldest and largest living organism on Earth.  “Above ground Pando appears to be a grove of many individual trees.  Underground they are interconnected through a single root system — sprouts of the same tree.”  Pando Populus, the environmental organization, has adopted this name as symbolizing the interconnectedness of all living things. [Read more…]

SD350 Awarded Patagonia Grant for Anti-Fracking Efforts — Again!

For the second year in a row, SD350 has been awarded a grant from the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. This year’s grant, which again recognizes SD350’s activism in the fight against fracking in California, is for $5000.

Patagonia logo tee-shirts and jackets are often seen on back-country trails.

Patagonia logo tee-shirts and jackets are favorite outdoor garb.

Patagonia’s grant program donates 1% of annual sales – not profit! – to local action-oriented organizations that build public involvement in defense of the environment. In a video on the company’s website, Lisa Pike Sheehy explains why: “No matter how much we strive for sustainability, we are still using non-renewable resources. For that, we tax ourselves.”

A privately held company, Patagonia has the freedom to fund grassroots groups that use creative methods to engage communities to take action on environmental issues, actions that include but also go beyond education and awareness-building. “We often fund groups that other companies don’t feel comfortable funding,” says spokesperson Hans Cole, adding, “Maybe it’s because the issues are too political or too hot. That’s where we feel we can make the most difference.” [Read more…]

Rob Greenfield Donates to SD350’s Planet-Based Diet Team

Local powerhouse environmental activist and SanDiego350 member Rob Greenfield has kindly donated a $3,000 advance he received to a cause he passionately believes in: using our forks to change the world.

He has designated $1,500 to SanDiego350’s Planet-Based Diet team (which he is also now a member of), which advocates the environmental benefits of shifting to plant-based diets and reducing food waste, and the other $1,500 to FoodShift, a group that works to reduce food waste. Rumor has it that the advance is for a Discovery TV show Rob will be featured in!

Rob-Greenfield-in-Field1

Rob in a green field. (Photo: robgreenfield.tv)

This self-described “adventurer, activist, and dude making a difference” employs attention-getting tactics such as cycling across the US and living in a 50-square-foot San Diego home to promote living simply for the environment’s sake. Greenfield has been featured on BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, the Discovery Channel, USA Today, the LA Times, and more. He has vowed to live without bills or debt and to donate all of the money he makes to non-profits. [Read more…]

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

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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.

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)