A San Diego City Council committee got a dose of climate science this afternoon.

The consensus from the Natural Resources and Culture Committee: The world is getting warmer. And San Diego should be doing more about it.

The committee heard a 45-minute presentation from two Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists about global climate change and its underlying causes and effects.

The warmest years on record have been in the 1990s and first half of this decade, said Richard Somerville, a professor of meteorology in Scripps’ Climate Research Division. Congressionally sanctioned research from the National Research Council found those temperatures to be unparalleled in the last 400 years; other researchers say they’re more profound than any temperatures we’ve experienced in the last 1,000 years.

David W. Pierce, a programmer/analyst in Scripps’ Climate Research Division, reviewed a litany of local effects of a warming world.

Wildfires will become more common. Heat waves become more frequent. Sea levels rise. Snow melts earlier, at a time when dams can’t store the runoff because they’re purposely being kept low to avoid flooding. And less precipitation falls as snow – a key source of our fresh drinking water. (For some background, read my earlier story.)

“This is not a partisan issue nor a political issue,” said committee chairwoman and City Councilwoman Donna Frye. “Global warming is profoundly local and it has local causes and local effects.”

Bob Noble, a San Diego Regional Energy Office board member, encouraged the council to clear the way for more sustainable development in the city. Provide incentives, he said, for energy efficient building and solar-panel installation.

“I’m concerned about San Diego and San Diego’s slow progress,” Noble said. “… The ultimate issue is about leadership. It’s not about a strong mayor system, it’s about a strong visionary mayor and a strong visionary City Council.”

The meeting was the city’s second discussion of climate change in as many weeks. City Attorney Mike Aguirre took up the issue in a 36-page report to City Council on Aug. 31. One proposal Aguirre laid out calls for San Diego to join a growing list of cities whose mayors have agreed to reach goals for lower carbon emissions and to comply with the Kyoto Protocol.

The council committee recommended a similar step, requesting Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin’s office determine the financial implications of the city’s climate protection action plan, which was created last summer.

Mayor Jerry Sanders has greeted Aguirre’s plan and the council plan with some hesitance. The mayor believes the city is already doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mayoral spokesman Fred Sainz said.

“He thinks it’s an entirely appropriate debate for the federal government to have,” Sainz said. “The last thing he would ever want to do is hurt economic development in San Diego, so it’s a fine balance we have to strike.”


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