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What can San Diego expect from climate change?

 June 28, 2023 at 6:11 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on Kpbs. Today , we're talking about climate change and what it means for San Diego. I'm Andrew Bracken , in for Jade Hyneman. Here's to conversations that inform , inspire and make you think. What rising seas mean for San Diego coastal communities.

S2: I think that's when it really hit me that when I learned about the elevated sea levels that , you know , we've got something that we have to address.

S1: Look at wildfires in San Diego and what makes them unique and how will climate change impact San Diego's economy ? That's ahead on Midday Edition. First , the news. President Joe Biden visited California last week to announce a $600 million investment to protect coastal communities from the effects of rising seas. The news came on the heels of recent findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that found ocean temperatures found earlier this year were the highest on record since the 1950s. The low lying beach community of Imperial Beach is among the San Diego coastal communities most susceptible to sea level rise. Here to talk more about it is Serge Dina. He's the former mayor of Imperial Beach and executive director of the environmental nonprofit Wild Coast. Serge , welcome to Midday Edition.

S2: Thank you so much for having me.

S1: So you've been a part of the Imperial Beach community for several decades. I think your connection to it goes back to the 1970s even.

S2: But in Imperial Beach , vivid memory of 1980 , in the spring of 1980 or late winter , walking down to the beach after a big storm and seeing the Imperial Beach Pier had collapsed because of , you know , 20 foot surf that had hit it from an El Nino storm. And I think that's when I really became aware of coastal flooding and really what , you know , coastal storms and coastal storm surge can do to a beachfront community. But fast forward to 2013 when we had the last shift from La Nina to El Nino and we had thermal expansion going on in the ocean , some of the highest tides we've seen in San Diego , San Diego Bay , record high tides and Imperial Beach experienced a phenomena in which with king tides not even that big , a surf and maybe six foot surf , all of a sudden the water started overtopping , overtopping the street entrances. And I was happy to be lucky to be on site with Bob Gosa , who's a legendary coastal geomorphologist or scientists from scripts , and a woman named Timu Galleon , who's now at UCLA and civil Engineering. And they were both studying this phenomenon , looking at what was happening to the beach. And it was really impressive , almost like what you would expected in Holland , right , where you want to put a dike somewhere to stop that flooding. And I think that's when it really hit me that when I learned about the elevated sea levels , that , you know , we've got something that we have to address.


S2: But Imperial Beach is surrounded really almost on four sides by water. So on the north , we have south San Diego Bay to the west , obviously the Pacific Ocean. On the south side we have the Tijuana River and Tijuana Estuary. And then really to the east , we have the watershed of the river. So it's really built almost on an exposed what was probably then a salt flat , a little bit elevated , filled in. And what we're finding is we have water coming to a really hitting us from four sides in addition to subsurface flooding. And we're going to thank our friends at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Civil Engineering Department at San Diego State. They received a National Science Foundation grant a few years ago to actually conduct research on subsurface flooding. So we're getting it in Imperial Beach from all sides and from really under underground as well.

S1: So , I mean , what are some of the possible solutions to.

S2: Look , first of all , let's just recognize that in San Diego , we have world class engineers , landscape architects , planners and coastal resiliency experts that have really sort of carried out innovative projects and pragmatic projects that have are helping to address this. So Imperial Beach , we already did a resilience resiliency project in partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Service , the Port of San Diego , to restore wetlands and our Bayfront , we've already moved an old trailer park up away from the bayfront , replaced it with some some condos , but they were pressed above the 100 year sea level rise zone. So. Those are the types of things that the pragmatic approaches that we can do. And a lot of it has to do with really making sure that cities and agencies start focusing on infrastructure. So the first thing that our city manager who's now in San Clemente , by the way , Andy Hall , who's their city manager , dealing with crumbling and the train track having issues , is we started talking about , well , how are we going to move our infrastructure , our sewage infrastructure , And then the city of Imperial Beach. And I want to just shout out to the new mayor of Imperial Beach , Mayor Paloma Aguirre , because she's been leading an effort to do a second resiliency project on the bayfront funded by the California Coastal Conservancy. They just got the funds that are really do some innovative things to lift the bayshore , bikeway a little higher , help a local school deal with with flooding , but open it up to the public. So I think there's an intersection of pragmatic , smart civil engineering , great landscape architecture , and really sort of , I guess , foresight and integrating infrastructure development or redevelopment , natural climate solutions. Whether you put in dunes , you restore wetlands and then making things more accessible to the public. And the number one example of this in San Diego is the absolutely fantastic project that was carried out by Sandag and Caltrans , supported by the city of Encinitas and the city of Solana Beach , to really do some restoration work in San Diego Lagoon. So building a living shoreline on the beach at Cardiff , improving sort of like the thoroughfare on Highway one with more bike , more bike lane , making it safer and also expanding Highway five. That was sort of the environmental work was sort of the mitigation for that. And I think the compromise. Right , and I was just there literally just came from there. And it's an absolutely fantastic project and I think provides the template for how people with lots of experience that we have here in San Diego are going to help us address this right by these sort of large scale projects that really address do things like natural climate solutions , using nature to work with nature , not against it , and then being smart about how we sort of move our infrastructure inland and keep it out of harm's way.

S1: And some of these projects you're talking about , like you mentioned , they are large scale.

S2: I think we expected a lot more to come from the state of California. I think with budget cuts , it seems like some of that has come out of the resiliency funding that we were expected. I know that President Biden more recently , there should be quite a bit of money coming down from the federal government on coastal resiliency and natural climate solutions , planning and projects. So I think that's that's good. But there's been a sea change in the county. I think they're really looking in their climate planning , looking at projects like this. And it's clear that Sandag is really leading us. And , you know , Sandag has been working on these sand replenishment projects for a while that now we we call them natural climate solutions projects , probably the most cost effective way of preserving our beach and shorelines. And so they're talking about doing a second of they just they did a project in 2011 that included Imperial Beach , and they're looking at doing another regional project which can't come too soon for our colleagues in Oceanside. I know Oceanside has been very concerned about the loss of much of its beach , especially south of the pier.

S1: And then there is this idea of managed retreat. Could you explain that to us ? I mean , what's the idea behind that strategy ? Yeah.

S2: So Managed Retreat is a concept promulgated and supported by a lot of coastal managers , including the California Coast Commission , in which the idea is that , you know , jurisdictions and homeowners and and agencies really work to to retreat or move infrastructure and housing away from harm's way as a result of sea life , sea level rise and coastal flooding. The problem with is , is that I think in some of the local coastal planning LCP update process that the California Coastal Commission had cities like Del Mar and then when I was mayor , City of Imperial Beach too , of course those words got twisted. And because , for example , you know , part of this process is to identify triggers. So if you say , well , there'll be three feet of sea level rise by 2050 , therefore we'll have to implement managed retreat. And I'm not making this up. I think a lot of folks who are newer to the coast who weren't aware of some of these issues , what they heard in their head was the government's going to pull a trigger and take my home away. And that caused all kinds of controversy and conflict and really hindered the ability of cities like Del Mar or Imperial Beach to really sort of focus on the pragmatic solutions and infrastructure that they probably had already been planning to do. And so I've been a big advocate of not using those words anymore. And in Europe , they're using the term manage realignment. Words do matter. And I think what I just came from a coastal policy. This summer in Newport Beach , where we had a really good intersection of environmental groups , coastal managers from the state of California and cities , as well as the real estate community. We've been concerned about these issues and I think everybody agreed that we need to sort of diffuse these tensions and really find some common ground about how we can do these things without people being alarmed that they're just going to arbitrarily lose their homes. But does that mean that they're out of harm's way ? Absolutely not. Or does that mean that they should have the state or the federal government or any agency bail them out when they lose their homes ? No. And more importantly , I think what we've seen in California is that the insurance market is going to be pulling out of , you know , subsidizing , not subsidizing , but supporting private insurance for beachfront homes like they're doing in wildlife prone areas. So we've got we've got some changes coming , but we've got to be smart and we've got to be constructive and pragmatic. But more importantly , we have to work with people to sort of deal with these issues because , you know , it's very stressful. And and there's going to be some changes coming.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Andrew Bracken. I'm speaking with former Imperial Beach mayor surged to DNA about some of the looming problems from sea level rise here in San Diego. Surge in 2019. A strong winter storm coupled with a particularly high tide caused some serious flooding in Imperial Beach. You mentioned some earlier storms as well.

S2: I think I want to say it was February of 2019. What was interesting is we had really I think I'm not sure if it was an atmospheric river , but a storm that was very similar to what we saw in central California hitting Santa Cruz this this past winter with these almost like hurricane , like surf's big surf , short intervals. And I remember looking out to sea and thinking , oh , my God , this looks like what we've seen in a hurricane swell in the summer in mainland Mexico. But it was coming out of the north and we saw these king tides. And I remember I was with lifeguard former lifeguard Captain Robert Stabenow , who I grew up with on a part of the beach at the south end of the beach and having waves just washed over and going into the Tijuana estuary. And I think we really and and seeing some things exposed on that beach that we had both been on that beach since 1977 , had never seen before and realized that. Right. This change had come. The other thing that I really saw , though , was that what we did in Imperial Beach , thanks to the support of the Center for Climate Change and Adaptation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography , they've been brilliant and really very supportive partners of the city of Imperial Beach. They had put a buoy a couple of years earlier off our beach , and so they had been able to predict sort of like when these king tide events would cause flooding , not only when it would happen like down to the minute , but where it would happen , what street. And so they had predicted that. So previously that we'd been using these King tide events and projected storm and tide surges to put signs up to tell people , hey , look , king tides are coming , there's going to be flooding , be careful , be safe. And I think it was a really good sort of education process. And that's what I think we did in 2019 as well. Educating the public via the media to talk about , look , we're having these storms now. This is what's going to come. And I think you see a lot of consensus from people to address coastal flooding. Obviously , for the folks that don't believe in climate change , it's hard for them to get their heads wrapped around the fact that things are changing and this is going to continue to happen. But when I think we talk about coastal flooding and focusing on things that we can do that help the public good , whether it's public recreational areas or infrastructure , for example , I think we can get a lot of consensus on that. And I think that's where you've seen in San Diego cities and jurisdictions have the most success with. And I think I hope that's a template that we can see into the future. And that's something that I think the state of California has understood. I think even before 2019 and we had this controversy over managed retreat. I remember being with a former head of the Ocean Protection Council , Mark Gold , and who had been working with the governor. And I think they'd been very concerned about all of this controversy over managed retreat getting in the way of the states and cities plans to actually really try to address the infrastructure and and public resource part of the coastal flooding and sea level rise piece.


S2: I was the chair of the Shoreline , what's called Preservation Working Group , and that was really a committee where all of the coastal cities and coastal agencies , including National City and Chula Vista , because they're on the Bayfront , got together and really worked on these regional solutions. And I was biased. I call it the coolest committee at Sandag , but really focused on pragmatic , practical and cost effective solutions. It was a really extraordinary group of private sector engineers , landscape architects , scientists , coastal managers and then city representatives , mostly in the county of San Diego , and really identifying sort of these these projects that would move through to help us address the resiliency and coastal flooding and sea level rise piece. That's where you're going to see the next regional beach replenishment project coming out of. So I think , you know , on a on a regional level , there's very good cooperation. I think you saw that come out of sync a little bit. Oceanside got a little stressed about their loss of their beach and proposed a sort of breakwater system and some groins which didn't make their their neighbors in Carlsbad and Del Mar and Long Beach and Encinitas very happy. So I think they've come to an agreement that they'll work on this regional sand project together , which I think is a smart thing.

S1: So , you know , you've outlined some of the efforts here on the issue.

S2: Who , who who pays for all of these needed infrastructure improvements , resiliency projects , Because a city like Malibu is one of the wealthiest coastal cities in the world , with residents who have $30 million homes , they can do a geologic hazard assessment district and charge their coastal residents the money to pay for these projects. That's a little more challenging in a low income city like Imperial Beach or National City. And so , you know who pays for this ? How much does it cost ? And who gets left out ? Who gets left behind is a very real issue that I think , you know , the Newsom administration's sort of grappling with and that our state Coastal conservancy and coastal Commission have been addressing , which is why I know City of Imperial Beach has been receiving funds because ultimately we can't afford to to address this. So I think that's going to be the number one issue as we move forward and and really trying to make sure that we're focused on the big picture infrastructure needs that we need to address to move to move away from , you know , flood waters and more importantly , how we help low income areas deal with this. They're not left behind.

S1: I've been speaking with Serge Dina , executive director from Wild Coast and former mayor of Imperial Beach. Thanks for joining us today , Serge.

S2: Thank you so much.

S1: We'd love to hear your thoughts on sea level rise and what it means for San Diego. Give us a call at (619) 452-0228 and leave us a message or you can email us at midday at Up next on Midday Edition , we take a closer look at wildfires in San Diego.

S3: We have the topography , the winds and the rain patterns that all come together to create this extreme fire danger.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Andrew Bracken , in for Jade Heineman. Earlier , we talked about some of the impacts of climate change and the risks that come with rising sea levels. But summer's here. And with it comes the start of wildfire season. Just last week , the region saw multiple brush fires , all of which were thankfully extinguished. But after a wet winter , San Diego's wildfire risk remains high and climate change is only adding to that risk. Here's Alex Tardy from the National Weather Service in San Diego.

S4: Temperature is a big factor in fires. We see that statewide. The hot days , the warmer than normal days. We tend to have more fires. The wildfire activity tends to be a little more aggressive , so it burns a little faster. And then if you throw on any type of wind , even if it's normal wind , that can really aggravate and cause the spread to be rapid.

S1: And here to talk more about the causes of wildfires here in San Diego , I'm joined by Alexander Gershman , a climatologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Alexander , welcome to Midday Edition.

S3: Thank you , Andrew. Glad to be with you.

S1: So we just heard Alex Tati there talk about some of the factors in wildfires.

S3: Typically , in October , we get the first Santa Ana wind events. We get a couple of them on an average October , sometimes every other year or so. We get a Santa Ana in September. But the Santa Ana wind season really peaks in winter in December and January. And by that time , we usually have a few rainstorms that wet the fuels. But that may be changing in our future. But in any case , our wildfire season in southern California and coastal regions is October , and that season is actually expanding. And that is driven by the fact that the winds , the dry , gusty Santa Ana winds start up around that time. And this is also after the long , dry summer because now Mediterranean climate here , it hardly rains in the summertime. So all the fuels are pretty much ready to burn. So the first Santa Ana winds that we get are typically associated with our biggest wildfires. However , I should say that every now and then we can get somewhere else to. There is a lot of dry light fuel out there. Basically , the grasses that that grew during the super wet season that we just had and all of that stuff is ready to burn. So , you know , but the wildfires that we get without Santa Ana winds are typically not anywhere near as large.

S1: And when talking about climate change , we often hear about increased temperatures , more wildfires , but not so much about wind.

S3: However , they are becoming warmer. And as a matter of fact , the hottest conditions that we get along the California coast , Southern California specifically , are associated with the first Santa Ana winds of the season. And those temperatures are getting hotter , but not the winds themselves. And they're not getting more frequent and we don't expect them to. However , the other component of wildfires , the other ingredient besides wind , is dry fuel and that we're probably getting more off and over a longer season , pretty much persisting with the dry fuels persisting into winter further and further into the peak of the Santa Ana winds season. And that is actually an issue that is related to climate change. It is expected to make our wind driven fire season longer and those fires larger.

S1: And you referred to our Mediterranean climate and wildfires , as I understand it , have been historically a part of that climate.

S3: Santa Ana winds are never associated with lightning. And so in the past , wildfires were either started by Native Americans as a way to manage the ecosystem , or they were sparked by lightning from occasional thunderstorms in the summer when a late summer thunderstorm causes ignition and the fire is not put out , keeps burning into the fall. Then eventually a Santa Ana wind will spread that fire out of proportion. And that's how historically large wildfires occurred. Large wind driven wildfires occurred in Southern California before there were random sources of human sparks which abound at this time.

S1: And you talk about how that human activity kind of led to an increase of wildfires , what we're seeing.

S3: And that's because the storms and especially the atmospheric rivers that deliver the lion's share of our precipitation here , basically hills and mountains squeeze precipitation out of these storms where you get a lot of precipitation is where you're going to have a lot of the vegetation that when dry , pretty much it dries out in the summertime. By the fall and before the first big rains of winter , that vegetation is ready to burn. Now , those are exactly the same places where the Santa Ana winds intensify. So we have the topography , the winds and the rain patterns that all come together to create this extreme fire danger on the sloping west and southwest sides of our hills and mountains. And then we have the spread out population that's continuously spreading out into the wild interior that provides the random sources of spark that are always out there.


S3: There's also a lot of activity to reduce the risk of wildfire ignition from the energy community following the big wildfires that were sparked by by the energy infrastructure. And there's more work to be done there. But , you know , a lot of it depends on better forecasts. The National Weather Service is very good at predicting fire risk days up to a week in advance. And we can act on those forecasts to make sure that the risk of sparking a wildfire is reduced. Aside from that , a major thing that we can do is to think very carefully about how we expand into that wild in theory for the so called the urban wild interface.

S1: And earlier , you mentioned how indigenous communities in California would set fires strategically. And I think that kind of called prescribed burns or prescribed fires. Can you talk about what those are and how those are being employed ? And we should be thinking about those in terms of wildfire risk in San Diego.

S3: Certainly prescribed fires have been used by the Native Americans , and a lot of the prescribed fire activity actually has to do with reducing the fuels so that there's less fuel out there to burn. Typically , prescribed fires work really well when there's an excess amount of fuel. And so you set a fire when conditions are not conducive to rapid wildfire spread , specifically when there is no Santa Ana wind. And then. When the next fire sparks up under strong , gusty , dry winds , then there's just less fuel there to burn. But these practices are most effective in places where wildfire is dominated by fuels , which are forests and basically , you know , thickly vegetated ecosystems. It's much more difficult to manage wildfire by prescribed burning in places like the coastal zone where we have these are not really forest fires , but shrub basically , you know , coastal shrubs.

S1: And poor air quality is another danger that comes with wildfires. We saw that earlier this month when New York City saw the effects of wildfires from Canada.

S3: You know , we don't have to look back that far. Back in September 2020 , October of zero seven and zero three , there was terrible air quality in the very populated coastal zone associated with wildfires raging inland in that sloping topography that I talked about before. And so , you know , what we have is a situation where the fires burn in the backcountry , but the smoke is delivered to the very populated coastal zone by the same winds that spread the wildfires. And we have done studies with epidemiologists where the impacts of the smoke on public health were assessed. And as a matter of fact , one of the results that we got was that smoke from wildfires is multiple times more dangerous to human health than similar amounts of pollution from other sources. We're not sure why that is. This is from epidemiological evidence , but it probably has to do with the intensity of the burning that's going on itself and probably the materials that are being burned. But yeah , as other sources of pollution are declining because of policy , the wildfires actually become much more important sources of pollution , particularly as the wildfire season extends and the wildfires become larger as well.

S1: And finally , in conversations about climate change , I find it's easy to get overwhelmed by it. It can be kind of daunting. I'm curious how you approach , you know , those challenges of climate change.

S3: I have to look at these things up domestically. The source of optimism that I see is that we are moving towards the next big step in the evolution of human society , which I think is learning how to produce and use energy and clean and renewable ways. That's going to happen. But climate change and the need to address the crisis is making us address this issue quicker than we would otherwise have. I hope that we can do it quickly enough to avert some of the most severe consequences of global warming. But we need to understand that addressing the problem in its root cause is actually going to give us a lot of co-benefits benefits to health , both physical and mental health , from changing our lifestyles to depend less on driving and more on commuting by bike and foot and public transport. Actually , I can tell you from personal experience , makes makes me more healthy and more happy. That's a very personal scale. But then if we look at a larger global national scale , imagine if we can reduce our demand for fossil fuels.

S1: I've been speaking with Alexander Jerkins , a climatologist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Alexander , thanks for joining us today.

S3: Thank you , Andrew.

S1: Is San Diego doing enough to prevent wildfires ? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Give us a call at (619) 452-0228 and leave us a message or you can email us at midday at Kpbs coming up.


S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Andrew Bracken. Hotter temperatures , rising seas and more and stronger wildfires. Those are some of what San Diego can expect in the coming years from the impacts of climate change , according to experts. But what can be done to better prepare us for the new climate reality we will be facing ? Joining me to talk more about climate change in San Diego is Tom Corringham. He's a research economist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. And Tom , welcome to Midday Edition.

S5: Thank you for having me.



S1: And with summer just underway , we've already been seeing some of those wildfires you mentioned in San Diego County. And California is already seeing major effects from them. Here's what University of San Diego economist Alan Jin had to say about their economic impact.

S5: The one thing that we're facing in California is the increased wildfire danger. We've had more severe wildfires , more and more severe. And so that is impacting or threatening to impact property. A lot of property can be damaged , and that's caused some insurance companies to pull out of California.

S1: And you were recently quoted in The New York Times about the story of State Farm and Allstate announcing they're stopping new home insurance policies here in California. Tell us more about what you'd like to see from policymakers when addressing this issue.

S5: It's clearly an issue for homeowners when they're no longer able to purchase homeowners insurance from the from the major carriers. And this is due to a few different reasons , including the change in climate , but also the buildup of fuels in our wildlands over the past century and rising housing costs and construction costs. So in terms of public policy , I think the biggest challenge is going to be reducing the fuel load in the wildlands , and that can be done through mechanical thinning. It can be done through prescribed burns. Other potential policy interventions helping homeowners clear defensible space around their properties and building firebreaks to protect whole communities.

S1: And , you know , this question of housing and home insurance , it brings up an interesting debate about growth versus sustainability. We often hear about San Diego's housing crisis , how we need to build more housing.

S5: One of the policy interventions that I think is most needed is limiting development in our wildlands in what is called the wildland urban interface. So preventing new construction and then when people's homes are destroyed , helping them move to a different area rather than helping them rebuild in place. But as you as you mentioned rightly , this does put pressure on our housing markets. We already have too few homes , too few properties for families in San Diego County. So I think the solution there is smart growth building at higher density within already dense , densely populated areas.


S5: I think there's a realization among San Diego policymakers that this is something that needs to happen. And we have seen some encouraging signs of this in recent years , and I think it will continue.

S1: And talking about having homes near wildfire prone areas. We also have homes right on the water. And as you mentioned earlier , sea level rise is is an issue facing San Diego County.

S5: There are a few things that are happening here. One is sea level rise , which is a slow process , but we do expect there to be significant impacts by the end of the century. More moderate impacts in the next 20 to 30 years. But it's something that's unavoidable. It's something that's going to happen even if we reduce emissions to zero tomorrow , which is unlikely. So it's something we need to prepare for. Also of concern , the storms that we see in San Diego , primarily atmospheric rivers , are expected to intensify with the warming atmosphere and warming sea temperatures. So we have to prepare for that as well. Now , since the major El Nino winters of 1983 and 1998 , there's been a lot of coastal fortification. So there is some protection in place already. But there are neighborhoods that are still at risk. Imperial Beach , for example , floods regularly. And another concern are our coastal bluffs and properties along the coastal bluffs.

S1: And we are expected to see an El Nino later this year as well , as you mentioned there. So aside from rising seas , wildfires were also seeing more intense heat in the region. What are some of the potential impacts from that , economically speaking , for the region in your view ? Right.

S5: So extreme heat. The last time we saw a major heat wave in California was actually 2006. And we're we're protected somewhat from the extreme heat , at least in the coastal areas of San Diego because of the coastal climate. But in the East county , I think it's going to be increasingly of concern. We're seeing record heat wave in Texas and Florida in the recent weeks. And this is something that we can expect to see across California in the southwest as well. The biggest concern is for those who do not have air conditioning or those who have air conditioning but can't afford to run it. And for those who work outdoors. So construction workers and agricultural workers. So we need to be thinking about these vulnerable populations and how we can protect them from increasing intensity of heat waves and increasing frequency of heat waves.

S1: Even I live near the coast , and even there I feel like more and more people are getting air conditioning. We're seeing hotter weeks that I don't think people accustomed to the coastal living are used to. Basically , I'm curious , like , do you expect air conditioning to become more seen as something more of a necessity rather than a luxury ? I think for a long time we thought of it as a sort of luxury , you know , luxury thing in our lives. But as this heat becomes more intense , there are certain areas that you really need it to have any kind of quality of life.

S5: I think that's right. I think it is going to become a necessity in many parts of the county , nationally and around the world. I think that with rising temperatures , there's no avoiding this. We're going to need air conditioning indoors.


S5: It is very energy intensive and it creates pressure on our energy grid. And as we are planning to phase out fossil fuel production and fossil fuel use in California in the coming decades , there is the question of where this energy will come from. Fortunately , we do have a solution , which is renewables , mainly solar and wind power. So using these new sources of energy that are coming online rapidly , there is an opportunity to provide the necessary air conditioning and indoor climate control for those who need it in a way that will not contribute to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

S1: And this winter we received near record amounts of rain and snow snow in our mountains. It was much needed for our decade long drought or megadrought , as we often heard. But the wet winter was not all good news for the state. Again , here's economist Alan Jin.

S6: That's good given our drought situations , but that threatens then to to damage agricultural productions. We've already had some places that have been flooded out. For example , Tulare Lake has come back to life and that is inundated , you know , a bunch of agricultural land and that's going to be out of production for probably a couple of years. And that's going to affect mean food prices.


S5: Um. In Southern California , we are limited by the water supply from the Colorado River , largely for agriculture , and the supply is diminishing. There's only so much water behind Lake Mead and Lake Powell , and this has been diminishing over time. We expect that to continue. So there are things that can be done in terms of crop selection. We can switch to more drought tolerant crops. We can switch to more efficient means of irrigation. But there are limits. And many of our growers are suffering from price competition from overseas. Our avocado growers , for example , even while they are practicing sustainable methods in agriculture. So we need to focus on how to improve the sustainability of our agricultural system , how to support our growers in difficult times , especially in times of drought or as we've heard in times of flooding. And it's not a simple problem , but there are things that can be done.


S5: We're we're on track with the County Climate Action Plan , City Climate Action plan and climate action plans for all of the local jurisdictions. There is some work yet to be done there , but we are addressing the problem. I think we just need to continue to face this head on and understand the myriad risks associated with climate change , how they interact with each other. And if there are one thing I think we need to focus on in particular is understanding how these climate risks affect our most vulnerable communities and populations. I think there are communities that have been left behind in this discussion and they need to be brought to the table. We need to understand their needs and their concerns , and we need to tailor policy to protect those who are most vulnerable.

S1: I've been speaking with Tom Corringham , research economist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Tom , thank you for joining us today.

UU: Thank you so much.

S1: We'd like to hear your thoughts on climate change in San Diego. You can leave us a message at (619) 452-0228 or you can email us at midday at Kpbs. And join us again tomorrow at noon. We'll be talking about some upcoming arts events here in San Diego. And if you ever miss a show , you can find the Midday Edition podcast wherever you listen. I'm Andrew Bracken.

UU: Thanks for listening.

Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach experiences standing water that was pushed over the seawall by big waves and high tides, Jan. 18, 2019.
Matthew Bowler
Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach experiences standing water that was pushed over the seawall by big waves and high tides, Jan. 18, 2019.

Rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires and increased heat are some of the most pressing climate change impacts San Diego faces. We take a closer look at the climate crisis in the San Diego region and ask what can be done to help reduce its effects.


Serge Dedina, executive director of Wildcoast and former mayor of Imperial Beach

Alexander Gershunov, climatologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Tom Corringham, research economist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography