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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego Congressional Leaders Discuss Climate Crisis

 September 16, 2019 at 10:25 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 After years of virtually ignoring the issue leaders in Washington, at least among Democrats, are directly addressing the climate crisis. We reached four of San Diego's congressional representatives and asked the same questions about climate change. Here are some of the responses from Democrats, Mike 11 district 49 Scott Peters, district 52 Susan Davis, district 53 and one Vargas district 51 first, what effect will climate change have on your district? Here's congressman Scott Peters. Speaker 2: 00:33 There's three main effects in San Diego County. One is sea level rise, one is more um, intense wildfires, which we've seen I think over over the past decade or so. And one is water supply issues throughout the state. California's going to be faced with water supply issues. Speaker 1: 00:48 Congressman Mike Levin, Speaker 3: 00:50 well my district has 52 miles of coastline from La Jolla all the way up to Dana Point. And all you have to do is take a look at the unprecedented sea level rise and erosion of our coastline. Obviously we just had a tragic bluff collapse and we continue to experience issues around our bluffs Speaker 1: 01:10 congresswoman Susan Davis. Speaker 4: 01:12 So the district have the 53rd, which is not coastal but very close to the coast. Um, we also have thousands of canyons in the district. So fire a dryness, Speaker 1: 01:26 congressman Juan Vargas. Speaker 5: 01:28 If you go to imperial county and you take a look at what can happen in that desert community with the rising heat, I'm in the summers in particular. I mean, it might be unlivable depending on what we do or don't do about climate change. Speaker 1: 01:42 Second question, what are you doing personally to mitigate climate change? Congressman Scott Peters? Speaker 2: 01:49 Well, I drive an electric car and a hybrid car. I'm trying to upgrade the hybrid to an electric as soon as some more are available. Um, you know, I'd like to tell you that, uh, um, my carbon footprint is low. I have to fly to Washington, uh, once a week or you know, when, during the session. Um, that's not easy, but you know, things like, uh, not using so many single use, plastic water bottles. Um, you know, just watching my own behavior, what I eat, eating less meat. Um, those are the kinds of things that I can do that we can all do to, to help the cause. Speaker 1: 02:20 Congressman Juan Vargas Speaker 5: 02:22 in my own life at home, we've done a whole bunch of things. We've taken out all the grass from our home, we've decided to use a lot less water. We've changed out all of our bulbs and we use now led lights. We do not use air conditioning. We don't have it. We were going to put it in. We decided not to because we think that uses too much energy. We live in San Diego. We think that the climate's good enough that we don't need air conditioning. Um, so I also try to drive less commute with others when I can, um, Carpool, do all the things that I can try to do personally to, uh, to save mother earth because I believe in, as does my family. I'm thankful that I have a 15 year old daughter at home and she makes sure that, uh, whereas, um, you know, we're as conscientious as we can be. Speaker 1: 03:13 And the third question, how do we achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 congressman Mike Levin? Speaker 3: 03:20 We've got to continue to innovate in research and development to try to figure out a forward thinking technologies, things that are able to cap carbon, carbon capture and sequestration technologies as well as anything we can do to try to reduce our footprint. It's about reduction, it's about adaptation as well. So we've gotta be mindful of the fact that uh, many of the climate impacts that are going to be felt aren't going to be felt until the second half of this century. But there are things that we need to be thinking about how we build communities, where we build communities and particularly in an area like ours with a coastline like ours, we've just got to be mindful of this each and every day. Speaker 1: 04:00 Congresswoman Susan Davis. Speaker 4: 04:02 Well, it's a key goal. You have to have a goal and, and it's been repeated it on in many ways actually, that, that, that, that has to be out there. You know, in California when we first started doing the car emissions, I don't think we expected to reach some of those goals, but we did. And now, you know, even car companies are telling the Trump administration, we're good with this. We can follow this. I think we don't have to sort of divide ourselves over it over this urgency. I think we have to get behind, um, what is having a, at least a galvanizing effort in educating as many people as possible. And then we have to assure, as I've said to my constituents, I need you there for the tough times. I need you when there are some individual sacrifice here. I want you to help us with this. Speaker 1: 04:48 We contacted 50th District Representative Duncan Hunter's office to have him participate in answering the climate change questions. He never responded to our request. Speaker 6: 05:01 Uh, Speaker 1: 05:01 we'd like to follow up now by analyzing the impact going forward of actions taken or not taken by leaders in Congress, the executive branch and the courts. David Victor is a professor of climate and atmospheric science at UC San Diego and author of the book global warming, gridlock. He spoke with KPBS round table host Mark Sauer. Speaker 7: 05:23 Professor Victor, welcome. Well it's great to be with you. Well with a window rapidly closing on humans chance to avoid climate catastrophe. Who is responsible to take action to mitigate climate change? Speaker 8: 05:35 Well, ultimately this is something that requires all of industry, all people everywhere in the world to take action. And that's one of the reasons why we haven't made more progress so far. So really hard problem of, of collective action building international agreements, getting countries to line up. Uh, and um, right now we're still early days in that process. Speaker 7: 05:55 And what actions specifically must political leaders take in the u s and across the globe? Speaker 8: 06:00 Well, the single most important thing they can do is send a clear signal that companies and individuals need to reduce their emissions. And right now that's signals not credible. And so frankly, most people are just doing what they, what they did before and continuing to emit. In fact, emissions are going up almost 3% of the year. Speaker 7: 06:16 Now, if political leaders fail to act, what can be done? Speaker 8: 06:20 Well, individuals can take some action. There are roles for protests, a market actions and things like that, but it's very hard to see how this problem is going to get solved without governments acting. And it looks here in the United States. The lack of action by the federal government has led to states to do a lot more. And so I think you've see all around the world, all this kind of clutching and gearing and efforts to figure out how we would compensate for the fact that many national governments aren't doing enough. Speaker 7: 06:45 We've seen political action, special young people, the walkouts, we're going to see more again coming up here at the end of this week. Is that going to be effective to get political leaders, elected leaders to act? Speaker 8: 06:55 It's hard to say. Uh, the action by the youth has been growing. It's raising a lot of attention. Attention is what we need. So it might have an impact. My guess is that the much bigger impacts are going to come from companies demonstrating how you're going to reduce emissions and themselves putting pressure along with the youth on governments and, and I think what's really interesting about the climate issue as you see more and more of those companies doing exactly that. Speaker 7: 07:19 You talk about some companies that are leading the way and innovations and being leaders and trying to mitigate climate change. How effective is some of their efforts been so far? Speaker 8: 07:29 Well, they're testing lots of different technologies. It's been a lot of progress in electric power sector because of switching away from coal towards natural gas, now adding renewables and energy efficiency. So I say the power sector is probably in the lead right now. A lot of interesting things happening in the oil and gas industry where these are companies that are very good at handling gases, including carbon dioxide, which is the main cause of climate change over the longterm. So they're testing technologies to capture that carbon dioxide and put it underground. Very expensive, still early days. So those are the seeds of technological progress that I think are going to be essential to really making a dent in emissions. Speaker 7: 08:05 Now, recent polling suggests the majority of Americans, especially young adults, believe humans are fueling climate change. Why does it seem so many leaders are still out of touch? Speaker 8: 08:15 Well, I think leaders are also looking at costs. They're looking at other priorities. All this is not cheap. Um, when you look at the United States polling data, while the overall figures suggest that the public is concerned about this, they believe humans are to blame. Uh, in the middle of that polling data, there's a big split between, uh, Democrats and Republicans especially, uh, far right Republicans. So it's hard to get all the political parties joined up. And that's one of the reasons why we're seeing action in the states. Mostly along the Democrat dominated coasts and a little and much less in the middle of the country, which tends to be dominated by rural interests and by, uh, harder, right? Republicans, Speaker 7: 08:52 the climate change issue suddenly seems to getting a lot of atten attention after being mostly ignored for years. Are you encouraged by plans being put forth by Democrats and by the debate we seem to be having finally at the national level politically Speaker 8: 09:07 I'm encouraged, but I've seen it before in 2008, 2009 we saw legislation goes through the house, not so much in the Senate. Um, so I, I'm encouraged at this time. Maybe it'll stick, but there are a lot of other political priorities and things that people are worried about. And, and climate is one of those topics that requires sustained longterm attention. If like healthcare, Speaker 7: 09:26 do you think it might take a dominant victory by Democrats, for example, to really wake up the other party and wake up everybody to the urgency of this? Speaker 8: 09:35 Yeah, that could help but a dominant victory by the Democrats will also wake up people in a lot of other topics. Uh, as well. I think the moderate wing of the Republican Party knows that the party is really far behind on this topic and needs to get its act together, but they're just hard having a hard time getting traction inside the party. Speaker 7: 09:52 Now, how confident are you that human beings can actually address this crisis in meaningful ways? And what are we in future generations facing? Should we fail? Speaker 8: 10:02 Well, I'm confident in the longterm, uh, this problem's going to get addressed through technological change. There are a lot of ways we technology to reduce emissions. Getting the politics and the policy right are really hard. So I'm confident in the longterm and the short term, the difficulty of this issue means that we're in for a whole lot of climate change. So that means the impacts, some of which we're seeing already. More extreme buyers impact the natural ecosystems, melting glaciers, all that's going to get worse, probably a lot worse before it gets better. Speaker 7: 10:30 You've been working with this and studying this for such a long time. Is there anything you'd like to leave our listeners with regarding climate change? Speaker 8: 10:37 I think the key thing to remember about this is this is ultimately a global problem. The emissions are mixed around the entire planet in the atmosphere into the oceans. And so while the United States can do a lot more us emissions and only 13% of the global total, California is less than 1%. So we've got to have a foreign policy strategy, uh, and a foreign policy strategy in the states that want to be leaders in this area that takes what we're doing in the United States and other countries and multiplies that around the world so that the entire globe's emissions come down. Speaker 1: 11:07 That was David Victor, professor of climate and atmospheric science at UC San Diego and author of the book global warming, gridlock. He spoke with KPBS round table host Mark Sauer. Speaker 9: 11:25 [inaudible].

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After years of virtually ignoring the issue, leaders in Washington — at least among Democrats — are directly addressing the climate crisis. Here are four of San Diego’s congressional representatives’ thoughts on climate change.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments