Pacific Beach back in early 2020. / Photo by Megan Wood

Summary

These studies show that the region is doing science-backed work so we can pinpoint which sectors of society need the most work when it comes to climate. It’s kind of the first, necessary step in holding ourselves accountable. 

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If you thought my latest story (on the fact that San Diego wouldn’t reach its most ambitious climate goal of net zero emissions by 2035, even if everything already planned goes perfectly) was depressing, you haven’t heard what the United Nations had to say Monday in its latest report on the fate of the planet.  

I, personally, loved waking up at 5 a.m. to hear UN Secretary-General António Guterres describe the “atlas of human suffering” that is the latest analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on what the best science says about the current state of global warming. 

“The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson on our only home,” Guterres said. “Delay means death.” 

Guterres said global emissions are set to increase by almost 14 percent over the current decade, despite the need to cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030 to stave-off permanent, catastrophic change in weather patterns and sea level rise that affect human health and food and economic security, especially in poorer, less-developed countries.  

San Diego is in a similar boat. A recent report from the Energy Policy Initiatives Center at University of San Diego showed that even if we did everything in the 16 Climate Action Plans in place today, San Diego will still only have eliminated about half of its emissions by 2035. That’s far from its goal of net zero emissions by 2035. (What does net zero really mean? Here’s an explainer.) 

When I talked with KPBS Roundtable on Friday about San Diego’s struggle to meet its own climate targets, host Matthew Hoffman asked what I would say to discourage people who feel like combating climate change is impossible.  

A lot of readers took my story to mean, well, we’re all going to burn anyway even when we are trying our hardest not to, so what’s the point? But my own takeaway from San Diego’s report was exactly the opposite.  

I look at this study and see the region doing science-backed work so we can pinpoint which sectors of society need the most work when it comes to climate. It’s kind of the first, necessary step in holding ourselves accountable. 

But the problem of climate change looms so large it often makes us feel as if any of our own individual actions or efforts seem worthless. But that’s not true.  

Debra Roberts, who co-chaired the group of scientists working on the latest UN report, was asked whether individual changes are as important as ones made by governments and corporations, or should people wait for strong commitments from those institutions first.  

Combatting climate change will take a “whole societal response,” she said.  

“A key part of that is the way we live our lives and the choices we make,” Roberts said. “But also how we use our sense of agency in the world.” 

I don’t think Guterres is exaggerating in his interpretation of what the science says will happen should the global economy continue to burn fossil fuels at such a high rate. But the rhetoric sure is hard to listen to, even for someone like myself who studied a bit of climate science.  

Sammy Roth, a fellow energy reporter at the Los Angeles Times, wrote about how he deals with his own climate despair. I can say my colleague and I both share a general optimism, likely because we cover sectors of the economy that actually are making changes better for climate – like new public power agencies pushing the San Diego region toward 100 percent renewable energy and even net zero commitments from monopoly investor-owned utilities like San Diego Gas and Electric. And it’s our job as journalists to ensure those institutions are doing what they said they would, with your money.  

I guess my message is citizens should wield the scientific findings of both the UN and San Diego reports as tools for making political decisions at the polls. And instead of despair, find a handful of climate-healthy habits to add to your regimen. The region will be requiring food waste recycling soon. And putting food waste into a separate bin on your kitchen counter and then into a green waste bin on the curb actually does help reduce methane gas from landfills, which is one of the primary culprits of global warming.  

“It’s a really strong call for all of us to start doing the heavy lifting to ensure a just, equitable world and a sustainable planet for many generations,” Roberts said. 

 In Other News 

  • And the U.S. Department of Energy is also building up the national electric grid to move renewables long distances under a project with only a $20 billion price tag. (Union-Tribune) 
  • Sempra Infrastructure, a subsidiary of Sempra which also owns SDG&E, finished a big wind farm in Baja, Mexico which will send renewable energy to the California grid via across-border transmission line. (Union-Tribune)  
  • Sempra posted high profits in 2021, $1.25 billion, despite wildly increasing energy rates in the region at the beginning of 2022. (KPBS) 
  • After that big sanitation worker strike against Republic Services, the city of Oceanside threw out a bid from that company to take over waste management in the city. (Union-Tribune) 
  • Yet Republic Services promised the city of Carlsbad, with which it just inked a deal, that there will be a smooth transition of service when the trash collection contract begins on July 1. (Union-Tribune) 

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1 Comment

  1. I think a way to advance our climate action plan is to scrap the existing version of SANDAG’s bloated Vision, and use the money to build out the infrastructure for Electric Vehicles. The quicker we make that conversion the faster we meet out climate goals.

    What will hold back the change to EV’s is the lack of rapid charging stations. Spend SANDAG’s money here, not on things nobody uses.

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