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Roundtable Investigates End-Of-Life Care, San Diego's Climate Plan, Measuring Warming Damage

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Roundtable Investigates End-Of-Life Care, San Diego's Climate Plan, Measuring Warming Damage
End-Of-Life Care, City Climate Plan, Climate Change BenchmarkHOST: Mark SauerGUESTS:Brad Racino, inewsource Andy Keatts, Voice of San Diego David Wagner, KPBS News

An Impossible Choice

inewsource reporter Joanne Faryon and editor Brad Racino spent eight months investigating California’s system of keeping unresponsive, vegetative nursing home patients alive with ventilators and feeding tubes.

In California 4,666 nursing-home patients — nearly 4 percent — are on life support, the highest percentage in the nation. They exist in subacute units, or “vent farms,” relying on ventilators and feeding tubes to keep them alive.

Most do not respond to any stimuli and their care is extremely expensive. Almost all of the state's annual total of $636 million is paid for by Medi-Cal.

When families ask nursing homes to do everything they can to keep a loved one alive, it's often because they don't know their loved one's wishes. Sometimes it's because doctors hold back the truth about recovery to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.

Climate Change Change-Up

This week Mayor Kevin Faulconer presented his version of a climate action plan for the city. The ambitious idea is to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2010 and 49 percent by 2035.

These goals are identical to those introduced by City Council President Todd Gloria when he was interim mayor.

Faulconer’s plan, which met with tentative approval from progressives, calls for new and denser housing in established neighborhoods (already opposed by some communities), improved public transportation and increased use of renewable energy.

And the plan includes teeth in the form of legally binding mandates. If the city’s plan had been voluntary, it could have been sued for noncompliance with state laws.

Changing Climate-Change Goals

We see it everywhere, in scientific books and journals, on newscasts, in the daily paper: To stem the tide of climate change, the goal is to limit the global surface temperature increase to an average of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Now two UC San Diego researchers, David Victor and Charles Kennel, say the popular and convenient metric for success is unrealistic, unattainable and potentially harmful.

In the journal "Nature," they write that looking at air temperature averages does not adequately measure the stress humans are putting on the environment. In fact, they say, using average surface temperatures, which have not changed much since 1998, can give ammunition to those who say that climate change projections contradict reality.