About our Sept. 10 tour with Dr. Jeff Severinghaus

Have you wondered what it is like to be a climate science researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography? Thirteen of our STAY COOL members had the opportunity to join Dr. Jeff Severinghaus for an in-depth tour of his laboratory and learn more about his work. 

Dr. Severinghaus is a professor of geosciences in the Geosciences Research Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His current research interests center on using trapped bubbles of gases contained in ice cores to track changes in ancient climate. Severinghaus’ team study historic temperatures at an ice core sites on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Greenland.  He is the recipient of several awards, most recently, the 2011 Claire C. Patterson Medalist of the Geochemical Society, an award given annually for a breakthrough in environmental geochemistry. 

The tour took place on Tuesday, September 10th. Participants learned the science behind how ice cores are used to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations hundreds of thousands of years ago. The ice bubbles are like a snapshot telling us what the atmospheric concentration of carbon was at the time the ice formed.  Some of the ice cores contain air that was trapped more than 800,000 years ago. The isotope Carbon 13 helps us tell what the source of the carbon was (See Isotopes: Fingerprints in climate change). 

We stepped inside a freezer which was very cold, small, and if you are prone to claustrophobia, very stressful! This area housed all the ice cores that are awaiting further analysis. 

Dr. Severinghous remains hopeful about our ability to combat global climate change. He used the analogy to sewage treatment. In 1750, the British thought that installing sewage treatment would break the economy. As we know, it did not do that AND we could not imagine life without a treatment process for this waste. Carbon dioxide is also a waste, and economists know that mitigation and adaptation will not break the economy. 

Funding is often a challenge for scientific research, and measuring carbon in ice cores is no exception. Dr. Severinhaus’s work is currently funded by the National Association of Scientists. 

Our next STAY COOL member event: “Protecting coral reef and intertidal zone marine communities for future generations”

Our next STAY COOL member event will be held on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm at the Engel Home: 701 Hoska Drive, Del Mar CA 92014.

Dr. Jennifer Smith, an Associate Professor in the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at UCSD-Scripps Institution of Oceanography, will be STAY COOL’s next guest speaker.  Please join us on Wednesday April 17 to learn about how researchers are studying and using research to protect coral reef and intertidal zone marine communities for future generations.

Dr. Smith is recognized world-wide for her research on coral reef and shoreline tide pool ecosystems.  Her laboratory focuses on understanding how humans impact marine ecosystems and developing strategies for saving these ecosystems for future generations.  In addition to her extensive research on coral reefs around the world, Jennifer was recently awarded a grant from the California Ocean Protection Council to create 3D models of the intertidal zones off the California coast. The data obtained will be used to project how sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification and other consequences of climate change will affect these unique ecosystems. 

Light appetizers will be provided, along with soft drinks and wine. The event begins with networking and our guest speaker will begin her presentation at 6 pm with time for Q&A afterwards. To RSVP for this event, please email staycool@roadrunner.com.

Summary of “San Diego’s Climate Action Leadership: Leading the Way for Our Nation!”

Climate Education Partners (CEP) recently hosted an event, San Diego’s Climate Action Leadership: Leading the Way for Our Nation!, to highlight the ways in which our region is undertaking some of the most ambitious and innovative efforts nationwide to both reduce polluting emissions and become more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The event was meant to mark the end of CEP, a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration between the University of San Diego and Cal State San Marcos, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, The San Diego Foundation, Steve Alexander Group, and UC San Francisco. The collaboration was aimed at understanding the local impacts of climate change and how San Diegans – and the leaders that represent them – perceive these impacts and how to address them.

Climate Education Partners used their research findings from local climate scientists, social psychologists, interviews with local “key influential” leaders, and public opinion surveys, to develop educational materials, communications strategies, and options for advancing local solutions to climate change so that the region’s leaders in government, business and the community could make informed decisions about the future.

The event featured elected and other officials from federal, state and local governments that have been engaged in policy and planing related to climate change, including:

April Boling, Board Chair of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority
Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos, Chairman of the Board at Port of San Diego
Assemblymember Todd Gloria, State of California’s 78th Assembly District
Kim Kawada, Chief Deputy Executive Director at SANDAG
Congressman Scott Peters, California’s 52nd District
Councilmember Cori Schumacher, Carlsbad City Council

“Collaborative, innovative, dynamic, prepared, concerned and eager to lead” were the answers given by the panelists when asked how they were feeling about the current state of climate action in the region. The program also featured an overview of Climate Education Partners’ new community toolbox, insights from polling data findings, and a quick share on what the CEP members are doing next.

Dr. Emily Young, Executive Director at the University of San Diego’s Nonprofit Institute, noted that CEP has laid the foundation for the Institute to launch a new Environment Leadership Hub, to build the next generation of strong leaders and organizations working across sectors, to protect our environment as part of sustaining our economic prosperity and quality of life.

 

This article was contributed to the STAY COOL blog by the University of San Diego’s Nonprofit Institute.

STAY COOL Members Walk through Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary

By Laura Schumacher

On April 28, I joined a group of STAY COOL members for a guided walk through the Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary, a 785-acre preserve near Lakeside owned and maintained by San Diego Audubon. Its mission is to preserve in as complete and natural a state as possible a prime area of coastal chaparral and riparian woodland.

Silverwood was one of the most pristine nature preserves in San Diego. Then the Cedar Fire hit in 2003, turning Silverwood into a “moonscape.” But walking through this preserve 15 years later, we saw first-hand how nature regenerates itself. The area is almost completely recovered.

Silverwood’s resident manager, Phil Lambert, was our guide pointing out native plants, animals and history along the trail. He knows the area intimately after 23 years and explained how the various plants and trees responded to the Cedar Fire. At one point, Phil suddenly stopped talking and looked up at the sky. We all shifted our eyes upward to see a flock of white-throated swifts circling above. “The swifts are migratory and they return to Silverwood every year,” Phil explained. “Today is their first day back and I’ll record this sighting in my log.”

Comfortable benches and wood-stump tables for bird-watching.

On the walk, we learned both the good and the bad about wildfires. Wildfires can help by adding nutrients to the soil, clearing debris and enabling seeds to germinate. But the Cedar Fire was of such intense heat that some native plants and trees that usually survive wildfires were severely damaged.

After crossing a beautiful hand-made wooden bridge, we reached the Observatory – a shaded area with wooden benches with binoculars laid out. We all grabbed binoculars and sat down to observe birds coming to enjoy a meal on the hanging feeders some distance away.

Nine-year old Aurelia gets friendly with a Striped Racer Snake while her grandfather, STAY COOL member Jay Hanson, looks on.

We saw California Scrub-Jays, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Hooded Orioles, California Towhees, and a Cooper’s Hawk.

Then Phil brought out some of the resident snakes for a close-up view.

Walking through Silverwood reminded us all of the beauty and complexity of San Diego’s native chaparral. For those who missed the walk, Silverwood Wildlife Preserve is open to the public every Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm (Closed August and September).

Our March member meeting: Tracking regional progress

Members who attended our general meeting on March 29 were introduced by Mikaela Bolling to a great online resource – The San Diego Regional Quality of Life Dashboard. The Dashboard measures trends throughout the region to track a central theme: Is our quality of life improving?

Mikaela is Project Manager for the Equinox Project at the Center for Sustainable Energy. The Equinox Project has been publishing annual Dashboards since 2010. Now the Dashboard is entirely online, where you can dig down into the supporting data. After a brief history and introduction, Mikaela reviewed findings of particular interest to those of us concerned about how our region is responding to global warming and preparing for climate change.

Dashboard indicators include assessments of air quality, cross-border economic and environmental issues, progress on climate action plans, economic prosperity, renewable energy, electricity consumption, housing, land use, transportation choices, electric vehicle sales and infrastructure, VMTs, waste disposal, water quality and water consumption.

Check it out! http://energycenter.org/equinox/dashboard

Meeting Recap: The Lesser Known Consequences of Ocean Deoxygenation and Ocean Acidification

Thank you to the 35 attendees who joined us on March 1 to hear from Dr. Lisa Levin. As a deep sea biologist, she spoke to us about her research on how climate change is affecting the ocean.

The ocean covers 70% of the earth’s surface with an average depth of 3,800 meters. The ocean holds most of the habitable volume on earth…and most is deep sea! About fifty years ago, researchers began to recognize that carbon emissions were altering the oceans.

The ocean is our planet’s most important climate mitigator. The ocean has absorbed more than 93% of the heat resulting from CO2 emissions. The ocean absorbs 26% of annual CO2 emissions.

This has created a deadly quartet of stressors on the ocean, says Levin. They are: global warming, sea level rise, declining oxygen levels and ocean acidification.

A warming ocean holds less oxygen – this is a major consequence of global warming. The ocean has lost 2% of its oxygen since 1960s, but not uniformly. Low oxygen areas are expanding, especially in the in the tropical and subtropical ocean areas.

We will continue to see large die-offs and food webs in decline. Fish distribution will be smaller. Called “habitat depression,” fish get pushed into shallower water, making them more vulnerable.

The greatest threats to biodiversity will come from the intersection of climate change with direct human activities. Where pH declines are greatest is where corals are most common and bottom trawling is prevalent. As oceans take up CO2, pH goes down making the water more acidic and oceans loose carbonate ions. When pH declines we see a loss of shellfish, corals and other pteropods, the basis of the food web.

So, what can we do about it? Dr. Levin offers five main take-aways:

  • Embrace the ocean as a major climate mitigator – keep it healthy
  • Manage for multiple stressors with an ecosystem-based approach
  • Accelerate ocean observations
  • Raise ocean literacy globally
  • Engage the next generation

 

At our meeting, we also heard from Kids 4 Planet Earth.

They have a goal to send 1 million letters and postcards to the White House from children across the nation to highlight the importance of addressing climate change. Here’s how you can help:
1. Have kids you know write letters to President Trump
2. Send the letters or postcards before Earth Day (April 22, 2017)
3. Register: kids4planetearth.org
4. Take a picture of the letter and post on social media
5. Spread the word: share this campaign with your church group, a mom’s and kids’ group, a teacher or school group!
Read more about this ambitious project here.

December 8 STAY COOL Event Summary – Honoring Dr. Somerville and Addressing Uncle Pete

At our meeting on December 8, we honored and welcomed Dr. Richard Somerville for his early and ongoing efforts to explain climate science clearly to the public, presenting him with a Grandkids’ Climate Defender award.

We were honored to have Dr. Somerville share his insights on recent global climate developments at this event. Considering the upcoming holidays, he spoke about how to handle that family member who is a climate change skeptic. Dr. Somerville calls this contrarian “Uncle Pete.” After all, most of us have at least one family member who holds this belief that climate change is a hoax. (To read the article that Dr. Somerville wrote about Uncle Pete, click here.)

Despite what Uncle Pete thinks, 97 percent of scientists agree on the fundamental facts, that climate change is human-caused by the burning of fossil fuels. As Dr. Somerville said, “The world is warming. It’s not a hoax. We measure it. The warming did not stop in 1998. All the warmest years are recent years. 2016 will be the warmest year on record. 2015 is second. 2014 is third. The atmosphere is warming, and so is the ocean. Sea level is rising. Ice sheets and glaciers are shrinking. Rainfall patterns and severe weather events are changing. Climate change is real, and serious, and happening right here, right now. And it isn’t natural. Human activities are the dominant cause of the climate changes we have observed in recent decades.”

So, why won’t many climate change contrarians accept the fundamentals of climate change? For skeptics like Uncle Pete, climate change is not a science topic. It is, for them, he argues, simply an opportunity for government to create rules and regulations that interfere with free markets and diminishes the personal freedom of individuals. This view has nothing to do with science. No argument based on just the science will change Uncle Pete’s mind.

However, climate science tells us that doing nothing will cause devastation. In the decades and centuries ahead, coastal cities will become abandoned because of rising sea level. We’ll see destabilization of governments and vast numbers of environmental refugees. Locally, climate change will increase drought and this will result in more intense and frequent wildfires. The changes to our ocean will put a strain on our tourism and fishing industries. We’ll also see impacts on agricultural, public health and air quality.

A new presidential administration may be able to reverse some good environmental policy, but Dr. Somerville also spoke about the good forces on climate change action that will continue. He believes there are solid reasons for optimism. One reason is economics. The open market is betting against fossil fuels – coal companies are going bankrupt, and in many cases renewal energy created by solar and wind is becoming cheaper than energy from fossil fuels.

It is becoming clear that decarbonization is increasingly driven by market forces, not command from the federal government. For more on this topic, read Salon’s article titled “Renewable energy is here to stay: The industry has grown up, and it’s too big to kill.”

Also, energy policy in the US occurs mainly at the state level, not at the federal level. California, for example, under the Clean Air Act, has its right to set its own standards for fuel economy and vehicle emission standards. And historically, other states often follow California’s standards. We also set our own building codes and energy efficiency standards. (California has pledged to generate half the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.)

Thank you to the 30 members for attending this event on December 8 and for supporting the mission of STAY COOL for Grandkids and helping to raise more than $1,200 for our programs in 2017.  Click here to learn more about our 2016 Year in Review.

Join us on October 6: SANDAG’s Sales Tax Ballot Measure A Does it Do Enough to Keep San Diego Moving Forward?

STAY COOL for Grandkids has teamed up with partners Engage Encinitas and North County Climate Change Alliance to offer a moderated forum on the SANDAG Half Cent Sales Tax Initiative (Measure A on this November’s ballot). Please join us on Thursday, October 6, 2016, 5:30 – 7:30 pm at the Encinitas Library: 540 Cornish Dr, Encinitas, CA 92024.

In July, the board of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) approved the final version of a ballot measure called “Measure A: San Diego County Road, Repair, Transit, Traffic Relief, Safety and Water Quality” to increase the countywide sales tax by a half cent.

The tax is expected to raise $18.2 billion over 40 years to fund transit, freeway improvements, bike networks, preserve open space and other community projects. It will need approval from two-thirds of county voters to pass on Nov. 8, 2016.

Politicians and community leaders from both sides of the aisle have vocalized support for the tax measure, saying it is a good compromise that will fill some of the region’s most pressing needs. Public transit would get the largest share of the revenue the tax would generate (42%). The second-largest share of revenue would fund local infrastructure projects. Freeways would get about 14 percent.

However, a group of environmental and labor organizations called the San Diego Quality of Life Coalition object to the measure’s funding of general-purpose freeway lanes and say it will not do enough to relieve traffic congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the health of our communities.

STAY COOL has not taken a position on Measure A. We hope you will join us at this forum to help answer some tough questions about the half cent sales tax and how it will (or will not) support greenhouse gas reduction and environmental protection in San Diego County.

The Oct. 6 forum will be moderated by the League of Women Voters (North County chapter). We will hear from these two panelists:

In support of Measure A
Lesa Heebner, Solana Beach Councilpersonphoto_heebner_web
Lesa is has been a Solana Beach resident since 1976. She was first elected to the council in 2004 and has since served three terms on the council, including three terms as mayor in 2007, 2011 and 2015. She led the successful grassroots effort to redesign the Coastal Rail Trail and has been involved with the redesign of Fletcher Cove Park and Fletcher Cove Community Center.

In opposition of Measure A
Jana Clark, the Cleveland National Forest Foundationjanaclark_cropped
Jana is on the board of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the plants, animals and other natural resources of Southern California mountains. She instructs Environmental Studies courses at De Anza College and is passionate about the natural world and environmental activism.

This event is free. Check in begins at 5:30 pm and the moderator will begin the program at 6 pm. Please RSVP here to let us know if you will attend.

For questions, contact: sarah@staycool4grandkids.org.

June 12 STAY COOL Event: Climate Change Education and NGSS

Thank you to the 21 people who joined us for our last STAY COOL meeting on Sunday, June 12 when we heard from Crystal Howe, who is the CREEC (California Regional Environmental Education Community) coordinator for San Diego and Imperial Counties. Crystal has been a science educator in San Diego for 14 years and has a degree in Chemistry from UCSD, a Master’s in Educational Administration, and is a National Board Certified Science teacher. It was wonderful to hear Crystal’s passion and insights about how the new science standards will grow our children’s understandings of their impact on the world in which they live.

IMG_4042 Crystal shared with us a high level overview of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – the teaching standards for K-12 science in California public schools. The framework incorporates three dimensions in teaching: students engage in Science and Engineering Practices to discover or explore phenomena (Disciplinary Core Ideas) while developing a scientific mindset (Crosscutting Concepts). The ultimate goal is to build scientifically literate students by the time they are finished with their K-12 education.

Scientific concepts have been traditionally taught by a teacher presenting a lecture and hypothesis, then the students performing an experiment that supports the hypothesis. The new NGSS framework incorporate more engaging and critical thinking practices. Climate change science appears in the three dimensions, as students analyze data, construct explanations, and construct models throughout lessons in Earth and Space Science.

Click here to download a PDF of the June 12 Presentation from Crystal Howe.

She explained that in the lessons for “Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems,” for example, kindergarten will learn about recycling and other ways to reduce their impact, while in 5th grade, students will examine in more detail how societal activity affects the earth and will explore the topic through hands-on activities, such as composting or a field trip to a landfill. Then in middle school students will learn more about how plants and animals are being impacted and threatened. By the time highschoolers examine the topic they are already familiar with major climate change issues and focus on sustainable activities that support biodiversity.

In the meeting, Crystal also walked us through a sample classroom discussion about the phenomenon of the grolar bear Picture1– a hybrid of polar bears and grizzly bears has begun to be observed more often in the wild. The teacher will ask the students, “What might be causing the Grolar Bear to be seen more often?” and then lead them in a claim-evidence-reasoning discussion. This explore/explain approach encourages students to ask questions and examine many aspects of an issue such as why polar bear habitats and mating patterns are changing.

A recent nationwide survey of the science teaching profession (published in Science Magazine, February 2016), most US science teachers spend an average of 1.5 hours a year on climate change education and their insufficient grasp of the science “may hinder effective teaching.” It is safe to assume that students will receive about 5-7 hours of climate change-related science a year by 6th grade given these new standards. However, the state is still in the process of developing curriculum for schools to adopt and it may not be until 2018 that we see standard curriculum in our schools.

STAY COOL is working with the Climate Science Alliance – South Coast and their Climate Kids program to support climate science education in Del Mar & Carlsbad elementary schools. We are running several pilot programs in the fall to connect Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) graduate students with classes in public school to presentation climate change concepts. STAY COOL volunteers will help run the science experiments and assist in the classroom.

Are you interested in helping support our program? We could use more members on our committee, and in the classrooms this fall. Please contact sarah@staycool4grandkids.org if you can help!

Also at our meeting we heard from a representative of Citizens’ Climate Lobby about the upcoming Lobby Day in DC this June 19-21. STAY COOL submitted a call to action letter in support of their carbon fee and dividend proposal. Additionally, please help by calling in on the national day of action on Monday, June 20, 2016. Click here to learn more about what to say and ask for when calling your representative.

STAY COOL in Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary

On Saturday, June 4 STAY COOL members and their families met for a wonderful guided hike and wildlife observation morning at San Diego Audubon’s Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary. Located near Lakeside off Wildcat Canyon Road, the 785-acre open space sanctuary is owned and maintained by San Diego Audubon. They have done a superb job maintaining the land in as natural a state as possible, with more than 300 native plant species and hundreds of bird species to observe.

We began our hike in the Frank Gander Nature Education CenterEducational Center and met our Naturalist Educator, Judie Lincer, who is also a board member with San Diego Children and Nature. Her insight into the local flora and fauna was intriguing for the five young boys (members’ children and grandchildren) who were joining us for the hike.

We then set out to explore the Sanctuary’s trail system, with Judie stopping to point out tracks along the way, including mule dule, raccoon and bobcat. We spotted butterflies, large lizards and even the rare tarantula hawk, which is a spider wasp. The Trailboys got a kick out of Judie’s enthusiasm for the scat we found along the way – most likely from a bobcat.

The region was devastated by the large 2003 Cedar fire, but fortunately for us, the sanctuary has completely recovered. Judie pointed out coast live oak, San Diego monkey flower, chapparal whitethorn, coastal sagebrush, yucca and white sage. The In the shade of an oakwildflowers were past their peak, but there still was an abundance of color from blooming native wildflowers all around us.

We learned about the traditional uses of some of the native plants, especially wild cucumber, or manroot, which all parts of the plant are toxic to some degree. The root contains a substance that stuns fish, and Native Americans “fished” by tossing pieces of roots into ponds and streams to slow down the fish so they could easily catch them.

On the rocksThe more adventurous of the crew climbed up the rock formations along the trail to check out the view point.

Eventually we reached the yurt where Resident Manager Phil Lambert lives. Happy to be in the shade, we met with him and used the community binoculars to view the active bird life. We enjoyed watching the many native birds enjoy the free bird seed and water offered by the Sanctuary. Bird watchingWe spotted hummingbirds, goldfinches, phoebes, towhees, jays, ravens and squirrels. A large coven of California quail stopped by for a visit.

We learned from Phil that the region has suffered dramatically from climate change, and more specifically, the drought and loss of underground water supply. He noted that the oaks haven’t produced acorns in four years – causing a food shortage for native animals like scrub jays, woodpeckers, woodrats and mule deer. These animals, therefore, IMG_3873must go elsewhere for their food source.

The changing climate has also allowed the spread of invasive pests. Many of the trees have suffered from borers such as the bark beetle, largely because the lack of ground water and drought prevents the trees from producing sap. Sap is a natural defense mechanism that helps prevent borers from infecting the tree.

The highlight was a pair of ash-throated flycatchers that returned each year to nest in a bird house and eat mealworms practically out of the hand of Phil. We also met his daughter who showed us a Rosy Boa they had rescued – and the boys had fun getting a Grandson with snakeclose up look at the snake.

On the walk back to the parking area, we made our way through a thick riparian oak woodland and Judie pointed out berries and fruits the natives used for a food source, including the manzanita berries and lemonade berries.

STAY COOL would like to thank the 17 STAY COOL attendees that joined us for this educational hike, and to San Diego Audubon Executive Director Chris Redfern, for reaching out to us about this opportunity. We are also so appreciative to Judie and Phil IMG_3891(and his family) for taking time out to share their knowledge with us.

Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary is open on Sundays to the public – but closed in July and August. The sustainability of the Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary trail system depends on both volunteer and monetary support. To learn more about how to support this sanctuary or to become a San Diego Audubon Society member, click here.