By Jeffrey Meyer
With the recent release of a new United Nations report on the global impact of climate change, we are given still another chilling warning that we are facing catastrophe unless we accelerate efforts to confront this crisis. The release of this report comes on the heels of a court decision rejecting the San Diego County climate action plan and the ongoing development of this state-mandated plan by the city of San Diego. It raises the stakes for everyone and compels us to reach higher and dig deeper for community solutions to this crisis.
The warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an urgent signal for our city and county officials to not only meet state laws on reducing greenhouse gas emissions but to explore higher standards. The law establishing minimum requirements for these plans fall under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) outlined by California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32).
Critics still chafe at the impact of AB 32 and portray it as a symbol of legislators running amok over the poor and middle class. Their reasoning wrongfully centers on increases at the gas pump of at least 15 cents a gallon and how that will also impact fuel dependent businesses. Those living from paycheck to paycheck are doomed to suffer the most when climate change drives an economic collapse and profit-driven efforts to mislead them have succeeded in creating an immobilized electorate.
The new IPCC report says that climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the planet, unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly. This comes on the heels of a new government report released this year showing our nation will suffer $150 billion in economic damages every year that we fail to rein in rising temperatures. Still another recent report found that climate change will cost the nation up to $507 billion in property damages by 2100 if we fail to take action now.
The world and the U.S. political labyrinth suffer a debilitating inertia in dealing with climate change. Even with the new U.S.-China climate agreement, the United Nations will likely be unable to agree to an effective climate change agreement in Paris next year. This is why our best efforts to deal with climate change may be through communities like San Diego. We have a capacity for imagining and producing extraordinary opportunities without the excessive bureaucracy embraced by nation states.
There have already been innovative community models developed by Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, London, Vancouver and Melbourne. It has carried to Shenzhen, which is leading the world on urban transportation and to Seoul, leading the world with green energy technology. This phenomenon of change is creating new business opportunities and employment for these regions, and it can for San Diego as well.
County officials need to return to ground zero and explore better ideas and options for its climate action plan. The appellate court ruling said their plan lacked detailed deadlines and measures to ensure emissions are reduced. If not for the lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club against the county, we would be without a credible county climate action plan. The city of San Diego is still in the adoption phase with its plan to meet mandatory targets, and in light of the failed county plan, they should reevaluate whether it will accomplish what is required or they could face a similar costly lawsuit.
Just meeting reduction targets set by CEQA and AB 32 is not enough. When they were set eight years ago, there was less known about timelines for adequate action to avoid the projected collapse of economic and ecological systems.
This is a trailblazing opportunity for us, and we should ask our elected representatives to model a new paradigm for communities to confront climate change and not just fulfill a state mandate.
—Jeffrey Meyer is a volunteer with SanDiego350, an all-volunteer team of San Diegans dedicated to raising awareness, developing leaders, and advocating for climate change action.
Disclosure: Contributing editor Hutton Marshall is a volunteer with SanDiego350.