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New San Diego Research Center Plans Deeper Dive On Climate Change

The Scripps Pier juts out over La Jolla Shores, which could be partially underwater by the end of the century according to sea level rise projections, Aug. 24, 2015.
Katie Schoolov
The Scripps Pier juts out over La Jolla Shores, which could be partially underwater by the end of the century according to sea level rise projections, Aug. 24, 2015.

New San Diego Research Center Plans Deeper Dive On Climate Change
The Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation aims to address how humans will live with rising sea levels, climbing temperatures and other effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

A new research center aimed at addressing how humans will live in a world shaped by climate change was established Monday in San Diego.

Officials at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UC San Diego announced the creation of the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation at a morning press conference.

Ahead of the event, Scripps director Margaret Leinen told KPBS, "Now that we know the climate is changing, and now that we know how much of it we're responsible for, the big questions are, what are the impacts of that climate change, and what can we do to adapt."

The center's initial funding totals $7.5 million, the bulk of it coming from philanthropists Carol and Dick Hertzberg, and the rest coming from other donations and university sources. Leinen said some of that money will be used to hire a director for the new center.

No new facilities are being constructed for the center. Instead of being housed in a "silo," the director will use ongoing research at San Diego institutions to focus attention on hazards like sea level rise, volatile weather, climbing temperatures and other effects of a warming world, Leinen said.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography has been a hub for climate change research for over half a century. Some of the first evidence linking humans to global warming came from the Keeling Curve, a project based at Scripps that has been charting increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1958.

Ralph Keeling, who continues to maintain the project his father started, said it's now necessary to move beyond simply diagnosing the problem.

"I do think where we're at now, climate change is pretty much upon us," he said. "We're beyond the point where we can pretend we're going to head this off."

Experts say we may already be experiencing the effects of climate change. This past July was Earth's hottest month ever recorded, and last week a study linked aspects of California's current drought to climate change.

Longtime Scripps climate researcher Dan Cayan said now that scientists know climate change could cause sea levels to rise approximately three feet in the next century, they need to start thinking about how areas like San Diego will adapt.

"You'll notice that the beaches we have here along La Jolla Shores are not very steep," Cayan said, looking over the Scripps Pier. "An increase in eight inches or so can bring wave energy farther on shore, impacting structures."

Leinen said focusing on adaptation shouldn't steer efforts away from addressing the root of the problem, greenhouse gas emissions.

"Perhaps seeing how much we'll have to adapt, and how much it will cost, will give us the inspiration and the will to deal with emissions now, so we don't have to adapt to even bigger impacts later on," Leinen said.

Corrected: September 25, 2022 at 6:30 AM PDT
Full disclosure: Carol and Dick Hertzberg are also supporters of KPBS.
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