Editor's Note: The author's wife Emily Young oversees the San Diego Foundation’s Environment program.
With ongoing Hurricane Sandy cleanup operations and damage assessment being carried out on the Eastern Seaboard, it is easy for San Diegans to become complacent and argue that climate change can’t happen here.
But the impacts of climate change are already being felt here.
For surfers and ocean lovers, subtle but significant changes in our climate have already had a big impact on our coastline and even surfing conditions.
The dramatic oscillations in ocean temperatures, changes in weather patterns, increased Santa Ana conditions and increasing loss of coastline due to erosion are all things long-term surfers and ocean observers already see happening.
As a drought-prone region largely dependent on water brought in from outside San Diego County, we are vulnerable to increases in temperatures, prolonged drought and sea level.
Dangerous wildfires experienced in the past decade may be indicative of what people in San Diego and elsewhere can expect in the future.
The issue isn’t whether or not San Diego is being impacted by climate change. Our climate is already changing. The fundamental issue that we need to address is how we as a region will adapt and respond to our changing climate.
We can either bury our head in the sand and pretend that climate change is a hoax.
Or we can believe the streams of data assessed by climate scientists worldwide and in San Diego to understand that we have an obligation to identify solutions that can help deal with the changes that are happening now and forecast to come–before it is too late.
The time to deal with climate change in San Diego is right now.
Even if the cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emmissions that begins Wednesday is a huge success, pollution and the rammifications of climate change are global, so we must prepare.
Luckily the San Diego Foundation has provided a blueprint, San Diego’s Changing Climate: A Regional Wake-Up Call, for such a program and identified some of the ways in which our climate is changing now and is forecast to change.
The report evaluates how San Diego’s climate will change by 2050 if current trends continue.
Some of the facts listed in the foundation’s report:
- We will see an increase in average annual temperatures of between 1.5-4.5 degrees.
- The weather in November will often feel like September does (as I write this we are feeling mild Santa Ana conditions).
- Summers will be even hotter than they are now.
- There is projected to be an increase in sea level between 12-18 inches exacerbating the loss of beaches. Click here to see how sea level rise is expected to impact local beaches.
- We will need 37 percent more water than we currently utilize even though our sources of water might shrink by 20 percent.
- There will be an increase by 20 percent of the number of days with ideal conditions for large fires.
One thing that is important to mention—there is no real debate on the validity of climate science. That there is “debate” on the origins and consequences of climate science is due to campaigns financed by fossil-fuel companies opposed to any increased regulation of carbon-based energy. The impact of Hurricane Sandy illustrated to a nation why we cannot afford to wait any longer to address our changing climate.
It's not too late to take action. I sat on the city of Chula Vista Climate Change Working Group and was impressed by how a local group of business leaders, conservationists and scientists came together to adopt a number of common sense and low-cost strategies to reduce the impact of our changing climate (just planting more trees would help).
Planning for climate change is something that every city in San Diego County should undertake. Especially for those who live for our coast and ocean here in San Diego, it's something that we can’t afford not to do.