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.

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 of 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.

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.