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Roundtable: San Diego's presence at COP26

 November 5, 2021 at 12:00 PM PDT

Speaker 1: (00:01)

California and San Diego are well-represented at a major climate summit happening in Scotland. There's plenty of talk and meetings, but what about action? And will it even matter going to the airports terminal one can feel like a time war back to the 1960s, but work is starting on a major project that hopes to bring it into the 21st century. And we'll check in with the San Diego loyal on the team's first ever playoff run. I'm Matt Hoffman, and this is KPBS round table.

Speaker 2: (00:29)


Speaker 3: (00:40)

We've seen the consequences that the scientists predicted would occur. All these heavy downpours and floods and droughts and hurricanes and sea level rise and all the rest. And so there is a widespread consensus now in the us and throughout the world that these leaders really have to come to agreements that lead to much more substantive action, more

Speaker 1: (01:04)

That's former vice president Al gore, whose work more than a decade ago to sound the alarm on climate change was recognized with a Nobel peace prize. He's one of the VIP's at the United nations conference of parties, better known as cop 26 happening right now in Scotland, California is well-represented the state and San Diego county are considered ahead of the curve when it comes to setting aggressive goals, to reduce emissions and other policies to deal with the effects of it. But how much can a relatively small part of the world do when it comes to solving a global problem? Our first guests union Tribune column, this Michael Smolins wrote about that this week, Hey, Michael greeting event. Okay. So this climate summit is a two week event, but much of the prominent world leaders have already come and gone. Would you say that there was a key takeaway or headline to come out of those initial days?

Speaker 4: (01:51)

Well, let's see you headline is that we're all leaders did big things to combat climate change, but not nearly big enough. They did, as you know, they, they, they agreed to, to stop deforestation by the year 2030. They agreed to really cut back on methane gas emissions, which is a big, dangerous greenhouse gas. But as we also know, they, they didn't go much far enough. Uh, time is really running out and it really takes a full global commitment that just hasn't been there.

Speaker 1: (02:18)

You're calling this week, ties in with the conference and California's presence there. Now we know that Los Angeles mayor Eric, our study actually came down with COVID during this conference. But in general terms, Michael, would you say California had, or has a strong showing there?

Speaker 4: (02:32)

Some two dozen state lawmakers went? I don't know how many California agency members went and others were present. You know, I think it's important to even though the conference has largely, I think been a disappointment in the terms of the future, but California has been recognized as a world leader. Not necessarily the world leader in combating global warming certainly has moved far ahead of our own state. So they wanted to have a good presence there. They felt that was necessary. That's why we've got so many people there.

Speaker 1: (03:03)

And you mentioned state lawmakers, assembly, woman, Tasha burner Horvath is there at this conference in Scotland with a lot of her district along the coastline. Is this a top of mind issue for her?

Speaker 4: (03:13)

Well, absolutely. In fact, not too long ago, a few years ago, she was named the chair of the, this revive select committee on sea level rise in the economy. It was interesting because the committee had been dormant until she wanted to get involved and they revived at nature chair. And I had this conversation with her about, wait a minute, we're California. And the sea level rise committee isn't really doesn't exist anymore. And she said, yeah, it does boggle the mind, but so they've moved on. Yes, that's a huge issue. As you say, she's from Encinitas. And we know the Bluffs and Encinitas have collapsed in various places all up and down the coast. But when I talked with her this week, she really did emphasize a broader view. And one of her larger concerns is just the notion of extreme sheet in the here and now, as we know that we've talked a lot about the effect of the heat and global climate change on wildfires. You know, she's talking about in real time to real people and wants to look at things that how can we get more cooling centers in California and certainly, you know, her area, although the coast might not need it as much as inland, but she does have inland areas. And also the notion of retrofitting houses with air conditioning that don't have it. So they're dealing with a lot of, you know, sort of pragmatic notions, uh, along with the big existential question,

Speaker 1: (04:25)

Assemblyman, Chris ward has also attending, and he talked with you about this term net zero. What did he say about the value in events like this and sharing ideas and examples of what can work on a local level,

Speaker 4: (04:36)

Both he and assembly member Boerner Horvath acknowledged that without global action, they didn't say all this loss, but maybe all will be lost. But if, and when that happens, it's going to take sort of a granular approach to implement a lot of this stuff at the city state, local and national level. So as we've talked about locally, the city and county of San Diego would have moved ahead in this realm as has the state. So they're talking with a lot of their counterparts about what they're doing and trading ideas and best practices, but also potentially coordinating their efforts in the future.

Speaker 1: (05:12)

Um, Thursday Gretta, thunbergii the young climate activist from Sweden who has emerged as one of the leading voices on this issue tweeted this cop 26 has been named the most excluding cop ever. This is no longer a climate conference. This is a global north greenwash festival, a two week celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah. Does she have a point, Michael?

Speaker 4: (05:32)

Well, I, I think so. I mean, first let's credit Gretta thunbergii is this rather amazing young woman that has put this on the international radar in a way like nobody else has to be honest. I mean, I don't mean to diminish what scientists and people have been doing, but she really did crystallize it for a lot of people. She wasn't invited to speak. She has been invited to speak at other of these UN conferences. I don't think she's complaining specifically about that, but there's this that look, the young people of the world are the ones that are going to be paying the price for our negligence. They should be listened to, they should be front and center. Perhaps she wasn't invited because they know that the attitude of which, you know, we, we just experienced what you've read and what she said. I think also that there's this concern that, that the lower income nations, the smaller nation, some of the nations that, that will really be more effected by climate change are not getting as much attention as they should. Those are just some of the things I'm thinking that she's talking about

Speaker 1: (06:27)

The T put out a gift with art from your colleague. The cartoon is Steve brain. It shows jets of world leaders flying into cop 26, spewing fumes into the air with the caption could have been a zoom meeting. Is that a valid commentary on how those empowers are? You know, maybe talking the talk, but not so much walking the walk

Speaker 4: (06:44)

To a degree if Al gore flew there, I don't think you could accuse him of not walking the walk. You talked about putting it on our radar. He did, you know, more than, than anybody. I'm a little ambivalent on that. I think yes, people have to be very responsible personally about what they do. They're not joy riding. And, and I think that, that look there, aren't going to be emissions and there we're going to have to basically, I think continue to, to admit these gases in efforts to try to reduce them. I know that sounds counterproductive. I think a little bit of a deal was made out of a factor and environmental activists. Uh, Leonardo DiCaprio took a commercial flight there, I believe, as opposed to private jet and got, you know, pats on the back for that good on them. But I think that there's a little bit more made out of that than need be on these conferences as for the zoom thing that that's not great. And I think certain times and certain future issues, the personal interaction does make a difference, perhaps, maybe even more so at the local officials level, as we've been talking about, then the, uh, the worldly,

Speaker 1: (07:46)

Some of the tone of this conference has shifted from how do we stop climate change to how do we deal with the inevitable effects? The U S is still a global leader, despite retreating from this issue over the past few years, is the consensus that a lot of valuable time has been wasted there or is there still hope for meaningful progress?

Speaker 4: (08:04)

Oh, I, I think there's always hope for meaningful progress. The hope shrinks and shrinks as time goes on because it's literally a clock ticking. Yeah. Time was wasted. I mean, the Trump administration had no interest in this. Wasn't a science denying point of view. It just was negligence. And I think the world in the United States suffered in many, many ways, but, you know, getting to the initial part of the question, yes, there's a huge focus now on, on, as I mentioned before, dealing with effects of global warming in real time, because while we haven't hit the tipping point, that's coming in about 11 years or so that they, they project and that were, they really believe catastrophic. Things will happen. We are experiencing that impact effects of global warming. Now with the wildfires, we mentioned the Bluffs collapsing. Well, while they're dealing with, what do they do with homeowners? Governments are trying to figure out how do they push back and move further inland infrastructure. And the classic point that we all know about the train tracks in Del Mar, which are teetering right on the edge of a shaky bluff. Now they've shortened that up, but there are plans to move that inland, but it's going to take many, many years.

Speaker 1: (09:12)

I've been speaking with columnists, Michael Small ends. You can read his latest on the local representation at cop 26 in the San Diego union Tribune. And thanks so much for your time, Michael, thank you for having me on. So what do San Diego's leading climate scientists think about what's happening in Glasgow? We heard from Dr. Rom Roman often from the Scripps institution of oceanography, Ramanathan

Speaker 5: (09:37)

Urged world leaders, including the Pope to make climate change a priority, but he's losing faith.

Speaker 6: (09:42)

I am also honestly, quite a bit disillusioned with these meetings. There are a lot of talks, not substance, okay. We are going to come with some meaningful things, but nothing commensurate to the problem we are facing.

Speaker 1: (09:58)

That was part of a story earlier this week from KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson, you can stream it anytime on the KPBS YouTube page,

Speaker 1: (10:11)

When local attendees at cop 26, fly back home, they'll likely be arriving at the San Diego international airport, which is now under construction work to transform terminal. One is just getting started. That's the smaller wing of the airport that hasn't changed much at all since the 1960s, if you've ever flown Southwest, you know it well, Lori Weisberg covers tourism and hospitality for the union tribute. She's here to tell us all about this big project. Okay. So let's start with the basics. How long has this project and a take and how much is it going to cost?

Speaker 7: (10:41)

Well, it's the biggest project ever undertaken by the, the airport? Certainly that's like three times the price that the terminal to expansion and redo was several years ago. So this is about 3.4 billion. There's a possible possibility that the price tag could come down a bit, but it's definitely $3 billion or more. And it's going to take a while, but maybe not as long given the enormity of the project, maybe not as long as it even think it would. So the first stage of it will be done in 2025. When the first 19 gates of terminal one are completed. What they're doing is demolishing the old terminal one, which is a 1960s era building. And they're replacing it with a brand new state-of-the-art facility that will eventually have 30 gates. And so the, the full compliment of gates will come online in 2027.

Speaker 1: (11:31)

Okay. So it sounds like it's still a few years off, but once it's done, what should we expect? I mean, people are very familiar with terminal one, know that it can feel small. So could we be seeing something big and flashy here, or maybe something similar to the terminal two expansion that was done a couple of years?

Speaker 7: (11:46)

Yeah. And I think the terminal two expansions a good, good example, because it was much more light and airy felt much more modern. I think a lot of things that people noticed right away are much improved concessions, including some local concessionaires, like Phil's barbecue and the Prado, so familiar names. And, and I think you're, they're not at the concession stage where they're going to, they've picked them for this terminal one, but you're going to expect to see things like that.

Speaker 1: (12:12)

And sort of along those lines, Lori, we know that air travel had taken a large dip during the pandemic. The early, early part of the pandemic has the airport set if that's rebounding or is there a thought that it may never return to what it was before?

Speaker 7: (12:25)

Definitely rebounding. I mean, I couldn't believe how empty the airport was in the early days. And you know, maybe it was 10, 15% of the volumes they normally see. I think there are some during the summer, I think they were seeing close to what, what it was pre pandemic, not quite there yet. And I think for basic domestic travel, it's pretty much, it's not totally back to network, but it's very close to being back to normal. What they're not seeing of course is the international travel that they used to have. And granted San Diego being a one runway airport, doesn't come close to the kind of international travel you'd see of LA or San Francisco, but nearly all the airlines that do overseas travel have resumed finally British airways, Japan airlines. So we're going to start seeing that ramp up a new route to Canada just started on last weekend. It'll eventually return. They don't think that it will never come back. That that was not the case.

Speaker 1: (13:23)

And sort of, while this expansion work is going on, should people expect any sort of disruptions when flying out of terminal one?

Speaker 7: (13:30)

Yeah. I mean, there should be a few disruptions and you know, it'll affect where people park. And so in the early stages, like for instance, in mid December, the airport says, and the cell phone lot will be relocated, but they haven't. They haven't said where yet. Then in January they said that about 500 parking spots in the terminal, one surface slot will be eliminated. And then so passengers flying from terminal one should use the terminal two parking Plaza. So those kinds of disruptions will be noticeable, but not insurmountable. They have plans for diverting people and mostly it's for more for parking issues. That'll be the, the main interest.

Speaker 1: (14:11)

And we know parking is already limited down there. And part of this project also includes another access road to the airport. Why is that needed?

Speaker 7: (14:18)

Well, I think anybody, if to getting into the, into the airport, I think you, you, you see the congestion that really builds up on Harbor drive. So this, this new access road that's about, I think it's like around Harbor drive in Laurel, they say that it will actually remove 45,000 vehicle trips per day from north Harbor drive once it's put in. So it's inevitably there's congestion now, and it's probably only gonna get worse. So it's, that should make a difference to what people see, because the project itself, there will be more traffic inevitably, as more people fly out of the airport. So it's basically to help deal with the bottlenecks that are inevitable.

Speaker 1: (14:59)

So there's all this new work going on in buzz yet. We still don't have a real mass transit option for the airport. Your fellow reporter at the UT Joshua Emerson Smith wrote about a new push to link rail service. Can you tell us what's going on with that

Speaker 7: (15:11)

To the airport authorities credit, they rewrote their EIR, their environmental impact report, and they made a much larger commitment to mass transit, including making space between terminal one and terminal two for a transit station for something like a people mover. The big question is will that people mover ever happen. It's a really expensive plan. It involves having a grand central station, which that also isn't a certain meat it's on maybe property. If they'll NAB war site, it's also the cost of doing either above ground or underground people mover there actually. I mean, there's lots of engineering and planning for that. They're very serious about it. San Diego executive director is very serious about it. And so is, so are the various member agencies and the transit agencies. But whether that will happen is a big question, mark, because it is so expensive along with the entire road and transit plan that that Joshua Smith wrote about. So it's dependent on the voters to an extent approving funding for this.

Speaker 1: (16:13)

We just heard from your colleague Michael Smolins about climate change. Was that a consideration when deciding to go through with this project set aside the emission from planes, but just the location itself being right at sea level there near downtown, a very busy area. Is it just more practical to stay in that area rather than consider building elsewhere? Maybe.

Speaker 7: (16:32)

Yeah, I think so. I mean, and I don't know how climate change per se really had a big, it was a big factor in this project that as Michael has written about before, and we have, we have searched for another airport location for decades. And ultimately I think the politicians, the, the jurisdictions agreed that, that there just was no other feasible place. So we're, I shouldn't say we're stuck with that where we have this one runway airport it's very centrally located. It obviously can't grow to be a two runway airport, but given where it is, they decided to double down and invest in improving the, the two terminals they have. And so that's what you saw here's earlier with terminal two and then terminal one, which people have been in the airlines as well have been complaining about for years is really essential to making this say 21st, 22nd century airports. So they're, they're basically dealing with what they have knowing that they're not going to move. And so they're going to make it the best airport they can. And obviously $3 billion is a, is a big investment in, in addition to the $1 billion they spent on terminal.

Speaker 1: (17:42)

Yeah. I've been speaking with Lori Weisberg who covers tourism and hospitality for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks so much for your time, Lori. Oh, and thank you.

Speaker 8: (17:52)


Speaker 1: (18:10)

That might sound like match day at Touro stadium, but those are supporters of the San Diego loyal at the airport, seeing their team off to its first trip to the playoffs. Special, thanks to NBC San Diego sports reporter Darnay trip for sharing that sound with us. But getting to this point has been anything but a straight line for San Diego's newest pro soccer team, just as the franchise was getting started. COVID shut it down. And as you just heard, fans are hungry for this moment here to talk about the journey is Ryan Young director of content for the loyal. If you follow the team on Twitter or Instagram, you've seen his work.

Speaker 9: (18:44)

Hey Ryan, Hey, how's it going? Thanks for having

Speaker 1: (18:46)

Me going well, appreciate you being here. Okay. So first off as we record this, right now, you're on the road with the loyal and San Antonio. What's at stake

Speaker 9: (18:55)

Friday night. Wow. There's a lot at stake. So it's our first ever play off game in club history, our short two year history. So we play San Antonio FC Friday night at 6:00 PM Pacific, and it's a winner go home kind of feeling okay.

Speaker 1: (19:09)

Casual soccer fans likely know the leader of the franchise, former team USA, men's star Landon Donovan. We can't go through everyone, but there, is there a particular player on this team that stands out or has become sort of a fan favorite this season?

Speaker 9: (19:22)

Boy, I would say Elijah Martin is a guy who has this great mixture of chemistry. He shows a hundred percent of his authentic personalities. So he's a guy that fans, you know, they'll make those little giftable moments, um, of the content we make. And I think just seeing how he is on the field, whether you meet them in person, it's kind of the same, same Elijah Martin. So I feel like he's somebody very easy to fall in love with and just somebody, the fans really adore

Speaker 1: (19:50)

A little bit of the bumps along the way, not on the field, but off the field, the loyal we're ready to go in 2021 and even had a few matches at Touro stadium before the pandemic shutdown started. How did that derail the team and the leagues momentum?

Speaker 9: (20:04)

Oh boy. I think with the context of this year with fans, it really hit, I think it was really hard because you got so used to empty stadiums and trying to make the most of that scenario. And you know, a lot of the content we did last year, it was just soccer focused. Cause that's all we could do. So we tried, you know, to bring you in on a little moments during training the lighthearted stuff as much as possible, but I tell you what that first game back with fans that's Rero in June of this year, it was like, wow, this is what we were missing. And I think we've seen a level of growth in the supporters of this club. You know, we had a sellout crowd, I think, you know, the second and last home game. And that was really, really humbling to see. So the challenges almost get erased quickly because of what you see this team has kind of grown into so far and it's short time and just how much love San Diego and sunshine.

Speaker 1: (20:54)

And you sort of talked about bringing fans in, how does it, how does the team stay connected and engage the fan base during a time like that?

Speaker 9: (21:02)

Boy, I think you try a little bit of everything. To be honest, I have a philosophy with social. I've been doing this, especially in sports the last five years, just dedicated to social content. And I always just say, you know, you've got to experiment a lot, you know, you've got to try different stuff because you know, the guy that doesn't play at all on your team might be the best personality and most engaging or might have, you know, his fans back in his home state of Wyoming that are just rabid for him. And, you know, so I always just try to say, you know, experiment be, you know, stay surprised by what could, uh, be connecting you. But I think for what we do, we just stay authentic to the personality. So I'm not doing a lot of PR tricks. We get a lot of really great access from Landon Donovan, our head coach and the players. And, you know, I think the comfort level of me being there really with them from the start has allowed them to be more comfortable and not look at me as maybe a guy with a camera in their face, but just a as a human. So I just try to stay in the mindset of what our fans want to see and supporters want to see. And that's led us to a good connection.

Speaker 1: (22:05)

Veteran's day is coming up. And part of the loyal strategy to build authentic community ties as a focus on military outreach, you're a veteran yourself having served in Iraq. How does that experience shape how you approach this part of the job with the loyal?

Speaker 9: (22:18)

You know, I, I reflect on that. I think especially during the time around veterans day a lot, cause there's not, there's not really a ton of guys that I served with in the infantry that are doing a little bit of jobs like mine, but I, I want to say sports is the closest thing that I've found to relating to the things that I went through in the military. Like, you know, the cohesion of a team success or failure or so for my job specifically, I want to say that, you know, the grind I had in the infantry, if you don't do it right, you gotta do it again or not really having control over your time and having to spend, you know, 16, 18 hour days sometimes turn it around stuff. It, it doesn't really matter to me. I feel like my mind is just wired to want to deliver the best that I can.

Speaker 9: (23:00)

So I feel like when I think of the military and what it brings, I think just the selflessness has carried into this job and allowed me to succeed. And it's great to have an organization that is supportive and very forward with that. You know, we have a Navy veteran, uh, Russ Thompson, who, you know, a retired helicopter pilot. Uh, and we talk a lot about how this is really become a place that we feel like our military experience is kind of not only accepted, but like they don't take it for granted and they really kind of welcome people with that past.

Speaker 1: (23:32)

Okay. So there will be a watch party in San Diego on Friday night. What are the details with that? And how else can people tune into this?

Speaker 9: (23:40)

Yeah, I'll hit on the, where, where to watch if you can't get to the watch party. It's where locally in San Diego on your view, which has Cox channel four, as well as a Spanish broadcast on a stack of America, canal 33, if you have an ESPN plus subscription, you can also tune into the game that way. But if you're in San Diego, if you want to be part of this culture, whether you've been to a match or just finding out about us, uh, you know, we're going to have a bunch of supporters, a bunch of fans, really having a good party at stone Liberty station and everything starts at five o'clock game kicks off at 6:00 PM and the first drink is on us. So that's a, that's a fun way to get the party started.

Speaker 1: (24:17)

And you guys have had sort of a, a very loyal group of fans tell us about who they are. And have they been sort of showing up this year in the first season, back since, uh, pandemic restrictions? Yeah.

Speaker 9: (24:27)

Ah, you know, I think you say that and I just think of our locals. That's the name of our main supporter group. We have two others with rainbow oils and Chavez to loyal, but the locals have been there from the start and have grown exponentially. And, you know, I think the best way I can relate it is I'll talk to the players. And some of these guys have been playing in this league for years. And they'll say, you know, our support group, no matter if we're losing three to one, whether we're tied, whether we lose, whether we win these guys and girls just bring it for 90 plus minutes every time. And it's funny, I'll bring my camera in there to get some shots. And I've had to like adjust the audio levels on my camera because it always just peaks and blows up the audio because they're so loud. Our guys have just really valued, you know, that support. And I think they feel it as you guys played that clip, uh, you know, they were at the airport to send us off to San Antonio. It's really, it's really humbling. And we're really grateful to have such a strong supporters group. And we see the growth, uh, really taken off with that. So humbling and thankful for,

Speaker 1: (25:33)

I've been talking with Ryan Young director of content for the San Diego loyal soccer club. That's at San Diego, loyal on Twitter and Instagram. Thanks so much for your time,

Speaker 9: (25:41)

Ryan really appreciate it. Thank you.

Speaker 1: (25:43)

Thanks so much for tuning into this week's edition of KPBS round table. And thank you to my guests, Michael Smolins and Lori Weisberg from the San Diego union Tribune and Ryan Young from the San Diego loyal. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen anytime on the KPBS Roundtable podcast, I'm Matt Hoffman. Join us next week on round table.

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President Biden delivers a speech during the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday.
President Biden delivers a speech during the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday.
Local representation at the United Nations climate change conference, a major airport expansion begins, and the San Diego Loyal makes its first trip to the playoffs.

KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman hosts a discussion on the representation for California and San Diego at the United Nations conference on climate change known as COP26, the start of a major expansion for Terminal 1 at San Diego International Airport, and the first-ever trip to the playoffs for the San Diego Loyal in the USL Championship. Guests include columnist Michael Smolens from The San Diego Union-Tribune, tourism and hospitality reporter Lori Weisberg from The San Diego Union-Tribune, and San Diego Loyal SC director of content Ryan Young.