Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , ,

Open letter from a distressed climate scientist

Javier Hernández, Director of the Climate Research Center, Sonoma State University

I am addressing this open letter to the Sonoma County government government officials, the California governor, and to all policymakers in the world, especially to those in areas where climate change-related phenomena (extreme heat, droughts, wildfires, heavy rainfall, floods, hurricanes, sea-level rise, storm surge, tornadoes) and other geophysical processes exacerbated by climate change like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, etc. are already causing ample biophysical, social and economic devastation.

More recently, scientists like myself, are confirming that climate change-related processes are happening much earlier than expected and that urgent and massive emergency action must be undertaken.

Climate change accentuated phenomena are impacting us now and their frequency and intensity are set to increase even if all anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are stopped today. For this reason, even though stopping anthropogenic GHG emissions and drawing down existing carbon in the atmosphere at maximum speed is still very important to mitigate climate change, it is paramount to deploy deep climate adaptation strategies in order to better cope with our present and future climate reality. Deep climate adaptation means to undertake all the necessary economic, structural, organizational, societal, etc., transformations to minimize the impact of climate change vulnerabilities particular to each region.

This open letter is not intended to convince anyone on whether climate change is happening or not, or whether is occurring because of natural forces, mostly human activities or a combination of both factors. The aim of this open letter is to discuss the most important problem related to climate change, the issue of living in a world where climate change enhanced phenomena are impacting us now and will become the norm in our very near future.

I’m a very distressed climate scientist that has done research on extreme weather and its relations to climate variability and change. I’ve experienced firsthand the devastating impacts of climate change accentuated phenomena, with more powerful Hurricanes impacting my homeland of Puerto Rico and more frequent and larger wildfires in California where I currently live. I am in the front lines of the climate change apocalypse.

The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) Report of October 2018 presented a dire state of the climate which, in reality, understated the true, even more disastrous, state of the climate. The Report claimed that with global CO2 emissions reductions of 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050, the average global temperature increase above pre-industrial times would likely stay below 1.5º C. The exclusion of the self-reinforcing climate change amplifying feedbacks (f.i. ice sheet disintegration, loss of albedo effect, heat storage by the oceans and release of methane from melting permafrost) in their climate change models, makes those suggestions irrelevant and misleading. The Report suggests that there is still a “carbon budget” that safely allows for more GHG emissions, which is not supported by the more realistic models that include the amplifying feedbacks, and by the now almost constant extreme and usually “unprecedented” climate change-related events happening around the world. There is no safe carbon budget left.

Because of those amplifying feedbacks alone, the increase of 1.5ºC is going to be surpassed significantly sooner than 2030, even if all anthropogenic GHG emissions are stopped immediately. The current global average temperature increase is close to 1.2º C and many areas of the Earth are already beyond a 1.5º C increase. For instance, Canada is at about 2 times the global average temperature increase and the Arctic Region (including Northern Canada) is at about 3 times the average.

The already major activation of the self-reinforcing climate change amplifying feedbacks, as a consequence of anthropogenic GHG emissions, makes the existing climate change mostly irreversible and leaves a short, but difficult to quantify, time for humans to mitigate further climate change aggravation by stopping all GHG emissions and removing GHG from the atmosphere, before a runaway climate change gets established.

As a scientist and as a being of this world I argue that we must stop debating whether we act or not on climate change. My position on the issue is clear, we must take bold climate action to prepare our societies for a more extreme world at the brink of societal collapse. We must embrace the fact that more devastating climate change effects will occur in the near future, so we must quickly begin our deep adaptation process to live in this new more climate extreme world.

If we don’t want to witness the end of organized civilization as we know it, we must act now. For that reason, I urge local, state and federal/national policymakers to accept the scientific consensus and the empirical reality that climate change is impacting us now and that it will continue to impact us in the immediate and long term future. After acknowledging our climate reality, I ask policymakers at all levels to issue official climate disaster state of emergency executive orders to make all resources available to deal with the climate change crisis which, ultimately, has the potential for the extinction of humanity.

I urge our governments to develop emergency measures that would allow us to prepare all of the infrastructure (roads, dams, buildings, parks, bridges, emergency-response infrastructure) and essential sustaining systems like farming, water supply, and health care, in our communities to the impacts of climate change. If we take bold action now, we can employ every able person in our communities in the 100% renewable energy transformation, infrastructure resiliency efforts and environmental restoration measures that would allow us to be better prepared to cope with climate change impacts now and in the very near future.

The impacts of climate change will not stop in the near future, even if we dropped all of our GHG emissions to zero. For that reason, I urge policymakers to focus on developing a more just and resilient local, national and global society that would allow all of its members to have a dignified life under our current and future climate reality.

In order for all of this to happen, policymakers need to accept one very important fact, we cannot continue with our current unsustainable economic activities that view the Earth as merely a collection of resources to be exploited in eternity for the sake of never-ending economic growth and wealth accumulation. Our voracious economic growth since the industrial revolution, almost exclusively dependent on fossil fuels, is what brought us here and it needs to stop if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

If we want to avoid the worst of the very likely climate apocalypse in our horizon, we must act now and work together to build a more just and resilient world for us, our children and all of humanity. It is impossible to put a brake on all of the climate change impacts that will threaten us now and in the very near future, but we can still mitigate Climate Change, build more resilient communities, restore key ecosystems and relinquish old unsustainable practices that would allow us to live a dignified life in a more climate extreme world.

Sincerely,

José Javier Hernández Ayala, PhD
Assistant Professor and Director
Climate Research Center
Geography, Environment and Planning Dept.
Sonoma State University
jose.hernandezayala@sonoma.edu

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land UseTags , ,

Vision for housing and hotel development in northern Healdsburg challenged in court

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Healdsburg has begun its review of a developer’s proposal to build what would be the city’s largest housing project, a plan on the north end of town that has restoked the fiery debate in this Wine Country destination over the pace of residential growth and hotel development.

Already, the proposal by Southern California-based Comstock Homes has drawn a legal challenge against the city, with opponents asserting the expansive development would run afoul of state environmental regulations.

The project, on a vacant former lumber yard bounded by Healdsburg Avenue and Highway 101 north of Simi Winery, currently calls for more than 350 units of housing and a 120-room hotel.

The housing would be split between 132 income-restricted rental units for the local workforce and a 220-unit senior living community. Plans also call for 20,000 square feet of retail space.

“We have a vision to provide something sorely needed in the community,” said Debra Geiler, Comstock’s director of entitlements. “The mix of housing units and the hotel and all of it is sort of the economic balance. If we succeed, what we will be able to provide to Healdsburg is a paradigm shift in community design and creating neighborhoods.”

But Sebastopol-based California River Watch has filed suit contending that Healdsburg failed to lawfully account for the greenhouse gas emissions the luxury hotel would generate. The lawsuit is a key piece of the group’s goal to force local governments to more closely account for the climate impacts of commercial growth and the region’s tourism economy.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9850091-181/vision-for-housing-and-hotel

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Land UseTags , , , , ,

We must transform food production to save the world, says leaked report

Robin KcKie, THE GUARDIAN

Attempts to solve the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions from only cars, factories and power plants are doomed to failure, scientists will warn this week.

A leaked draft of a report on climate change and land use, which is now being debated in Geneva by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land.

Humans now exploit 72% of the planet’s ice-free surface to feed, clothe and support Earth’s growing population, the report warns. At the same time, agriculture, forestry and other land use produces almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, about half of all emissions of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, come from cattle and rice fields, while deforestation and the removal of peat lands cause further significant levels of carbon emissions. The impact of intensive agriculture – which has helped the world’s population soar from 1.9 billion a century ago to 7.7 billion – has also increased soil erosion and reduced amounts of organic material in the ground.

In future these problems are likely to get worse. “Climate change exacerbates land degradation through increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and severity, heat stress, wind, sea-level rise and wave action,” the report states.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/03/ipcc-land-use-food-production-key-to-climate-crisis-leaked-report

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , ,

Why toxic algae is especially dangerous for California sea lions this year

Carrie Schuman, SAN LUIS OBISPO TRIBUNE

A 2012 overview of trends in toxic algae along the West Coast — published in the journal Harmful Algae — notes a body of evidence suggesting toxic blooms off of California have been worsening in the past 10 to 15 years. A 2018 study published in the same journal further identifies Southern California as a domoic acid hotspot.

On a beautiful Friday in July, a dehydrated young sea lion was rescued from the Harford Pier by the Marine Mammal Center’s San Luis Obispo County rescue team.

Pier visitors noticed the curious sea lion had been lounging on a floating dock for a suspiciously long time.

This California sea lion, later dubbed “Landing,” represents one of the hundreds the center cares for every year, including a large number suffering poisoning from an algal toxin called domoic acid.

Dr. Cara Field, one of the center’s veterinarians, said this year is especially alarming because the algal blooms responsible for producing domoic acid have started earlier than usual — just in time to target “adult female sea lions making their way to the Channel Islands to give birth” and “a whole second generation” of unborn sea lion pups.

The source of domoic acid — a potent neurotoxin — is a microscopic plant-like organism called phytoplankton.

When one particular species called Pseudo-nitzschia finds just the right sweet spot of conditions, it can rapidly reproduce and form a “ bloom.”

People unfortunate enough to be exposed to domoic acid by eating tainted shellfish can develop amnesic shellfish poisoning. Severe cases of the condition, as described by the California Poison Control Network website, includes “short-term memory loss, seizures, coma or shock” — although these cases are rare thanks to precautions taken by the state Department of Public Health.

Marine mammals are also susceptible to poisoning but don’t have a warning system in place like we do.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9845544-181/why-toxic-algae-is-especially?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Land UseTags ,

Santa Rosa approves dense ‘pocket neighborhood’ to meet housing goals

Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Local real estate developer Robert Upton has a novel housing concept for the north end of Acacia Lane in Rincon Valley, a design he says will bring homeowners together.

Upton, a principal partner of Glen Ellen-based Campus Properties, said the 2.5-acre lot at 746 Acacia Lane is perfect for a “pocket neighborhood,” a planned community of smaller homes that often surround a shared open space.

The estimated $16 million development, called Acacia Village, will consist of 25 detached, owner-owned homes, with three floor plans of about 1,000, 1,600 and 2,000 square feet. Most of the parking will be located on the north and south ends of the development and 19 of the homes will face each other, sharing the common green area.

Upton said the pocket neighborhood concept is popular in the Northwest but uncommon in Santa Rosa.

“It encourages a sense of community and encourages interaction between neighbors,” Upton said. “In a neighborhood like this, people will know more than half their neighbors.”

That’s a much larger share than is found in many suburban developments, he said.

The Acacia Village project was approved by the Planning Commission on June 27. Susie Murray, a Santa Rosa senior planner, said the project is consistent with the general plan and meets the “housing requirements of all Santa Rosa residents.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9845227-181/santa-rosa-approves-dense-pocket?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Berkeley became first US city to ban natural gas. Here’s what that may mean for the future

Susie Cagle, THE GUARDIAN

Berkeley this week became the first city in the United States to ban natural, fossil gas hook-ups in new buildings.

The landmark ordinance was passed into law on Tuesday, after being approved unanimously by the city council the previous week amid resounding public support.

Although Berkeley may be pushing the vanguard, the city is hardly alone. Governments across the US and Europe are looking at strategies to phase out gas. In California alone, dozens of cities and counties are considering eliminating fossil fuel hook-ups to power stoves and heat homes in new buildings, while California state agencies pencil out new rules and regulations that would slash emissions.

Natural gas, it seems, has become the new climate crisis frontline.

Berkeley’s ordinance, which goes into effect on 1 January, will ban gas hook-ups in new multi-family construction, with some allowances for first-floor retail and certain types of large structures.

The reasons behind the decision are multifold. Energy use in buildings accounts for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in California. If the state is to meet its goal of 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045, the gas will have to go.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/23/berkeley-natural-gas-ban-environment

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

Automakers, rejecting Trump pollution rule, strike a deal with California

Coral Davenport and Hiroko Tabuchi, THE NEW YORK TIMES

An executive at another large automaker said his company was considering joining the agreement because it includes meaningful concessions by California. The executive, who spoke on condition that neither he nor his company be identified, said that the Obama-era fuel economy standards were difficult for the industry to meet because car buyers increasingly prefer sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks that tend to have much lower fuel economy than sedans.

Four of the world’s largest automakers have struck a deal with California to reduce automobile emissions, siding with the state, and against President Trump, in a bitter fight over one of the president’s most consequential regulatory rollbacks.

In coming weeks, the Trump administration is expected to all but eliminate a signature Obama-era regulation designed to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming. However, California and 13 other states have vowed to keep enforcing the stricter rules, potentially splitting the United States auto market in two, with car companies forced to build different lineups of vehicles for different states.

The prospect of that nightmare scenario for automakers spawned secretive talks in recent weeks between California regulators and four auto giants — Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW — in which the automakers won slightly less restrictive rules that they can apply to vehicles sold nationwide.

The agreement provides “much-needed regulatory certainty,” the companies said in a joint statement, while enabling them to “meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations.”

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/climate/automakers-rejecting-trump-pollution-rule-strike-a-deal-with-california.html

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

How Finland slashed homelessness by 40%

Kati Pohjanpalo, BLOOMBERG NEWS

Look around the streets of Helsinki, peek into the nooks of buildings or under bridges, and here’s what you won’t see: the flattened boxes, sleeping bags, even tents that are the tell-tale signs of outdoor sleeping in cities around the world.

In Finland, homelessness has fallen by roughly 40% over the past decade — despite a double-dip recession. As politicians from Berlin to London to New York struggle to solve their affordable housing crises with rent regulations and freezes, temporary accommodation, social housing and public co-financing of reduced-rent apartments, Finland took a more direct approach. The government built more homes and provided them to the people who needed them most.

The country is an outpost — one of a score worldwide — of the Housing First movement, an idea born in New York City in the early 1990s in the brain of Sam Tsemberis. A Greek-born psychologist who grew up in Montreal, Tsemberis had come to the city to work with the mentally ill, many living on the streets between periods of involuntary commitment. The nonprofits and governments struggled to help them climb a staircase that would lead eventually to independent living in a place of their own. To get there, they had to overcome their illness, substance abuse and joblessness.

“It was an impossible quandary,” Tsemberis said in an interview. “Then we started asking homeless people who were mentally ill what they wanted, and they started with housing, instead of making it a prize at the end of a set of steps that had to be navigated first.”

Read more at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-19/american-idea-inspires-finland-to-slash-homelessness-by-40

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Sonoma County housing construction fund formed by Silicon Valley trust, Santa Rosa chamber

Gary Quackenbush, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Link to Strategic Sonoma Action Plan.

To accelerate the development of critically needed housing for workers in Sonoma County, the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber is teaming up with a Silicon Valley nonprofit to create a $10 million housing fund.

The Sonoma County Housing Fund, a partnership between the chamber and Housing Trust Silicon Valley, is designed to raise and leverage local funds to increase the supply of affordable housing in Sonoma County.

The chamber will work to secure and deploy local investments for the fund while Housing Trust Silicon Valley will underwrite, approve and administer loans for housing development. It is modeled on a similar collaboration between the Housing Trust and the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, a group of public, private and civic entities in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.

Chamber CEO Peter Rumble stated it is reaching out to major employers to invest in the fund, as well as to foundations, private individuals, developers and others.

“If our kids are going to have a good education, we need to make sure our teachers can afford to live here,” said Rumble. “If our technology companies are going to thrive, we need to be able to recruit engineers. If we are going to be able to care for our aging population, our hospitals need to keep nurses and doctors living here. If our tourism industry is going to continue to be the envy of the world, we need to make sure there is a thriving workforce in our community. All of this comes back to creating housing throughout Sonoma County, and while the Sonoma County Housing Trust isn’t the single solution, it is an important step forward.”

The chamber will be responsible for endorsing projects for funding the Sonoma County trust, in consultation with the Employer Housing Council, composed of the 15 largest employers and educational institutions in the North Bay along with the North Coast Builders Exchange. Rumble is also co-chairman of the housing council along with Keith Woods, CEO of the builders exchange.

Under a memorandum of understanding it signed with the chamber in June, the role of Housing Trust Silicon Valley is to underwrite, approve and administer loans for infill projects in urban and priority development areas. To encourage local investment and spur more affordable projects, Housing Trust Silicon Valley will provide approximately $2 of matching money for every $1 dollar raised by the chamber for the fund.

Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/northbay/sonomacounty/9804595-181/housing-silicon-valley-santa-rosa-sonoma?ref=related

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Santa Rosa weighs options for downtown development through 2040

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

More information is available online at plandowntownsr.com.

Santa Rosa’s downtown could add 7,000 new homes and more than 2,000 jobs housed in a collection of tall buildings over the next two decades while connecting Fourth Street through the Santa Rosa Plaza mall, according to three versions of a new plan to transform the heart of the largest city in Sonoma County.

The three proposed plan alternatives — dubbed “Vibrant Core,” “Village Centers” and “Transit Forward” — all would continue a current plan to eventually connect Fourth Street, which is divided by the downtown mall. The plans are going before the City Council and the Planning Commission at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Santa Rosa City Hall.

Santa Rosa’s current plan, adopted in 2007, envisions about 3,400 new homes downtown to be built over 20 years. Only 375 units have been built or approved, according to city data. Over the past few years, spurred by the October 2017 fires, Santa Rosa has ramped up efforts to entice new housing development, particularly near its two Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit stations.

All three new plan options are estimated to result in 7,000 new homes in the downtown area and between 2,000 and 4,000 new jobs, though the precise location of the new housing varies. Each would include some sort of connection through the mall property, though they differ on whether this proposed passage would be a full street or a route just for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The eventual downtown plan will likely combine elements of all three plans based on feedback from city officials, residents and others with interest in Santa Rosa’s future downtown, said Andrew Hill, a principal with Dyett & Bhatia, an Oakland-based consulting firm helping Santa Rosa cobble together a single vision by the end of the year.

“We’ll be letting people kick the tires on those various different alternatives to understand the pros and cons,” he said, noting that the idea of a connected Fourth Street through the mall property has been “resoundingly supported” by members of the public.

Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/northbay/sonomacounty/9804179-181/santa-rosa-downtown-housing-real-estate