Category Archives: Reducing CO2 Emissions


Each year since 2006, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releases an Arctic Report Card which NOAA  describes as “… a timely and peer-reviewed source for clear, reliable and concise environmental information on the current state of different components of the Arctic environmental system relative to historical records.”

In 2019, we got a failing grade.  Here are the highlights – or the lowlights:

  • The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing nearly 267 billion metric tons of ice per year and currently contributing to global average sea-level rise at a rate of about 0.7 mm yr.
  • North American Arctic snow cover in May 2019 was the fifth lowest in 53 years of recordkeeping. June snow cover was the third lowest.
  • Thawing permafrost throughout the Arctic could be releasing an estimated 300-600 million tons of net carbon per year to the atmosphere.
  • Arctic sea ice extent at the end of summer 2019 was tied with 2007 and 2016 as the second lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. The thickness of the sea ice has also decreased, resulting in an ice cover that is more vulnerable to warming air and ocean temperatures.

Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.  For example, the thawing permafrost and the loss of sea ice could dramatically increase the rate and severity of climate change.

Arctic Feedbacks 

Sea ice reflects a substantial amount of the incident solar energy, and as the surface area of the ice sheet diminishes, more heat gets trapped. In 2019, the surface area for sea ice tied for the second lowest in history.  Worse, after several years of recovering, ice volume plummeted in 2019. The thickness of the sea ice is also critical – the thinner the ice sheet, the more abrupt the loss of surface area can be.  

The Arctic ice mass is a major factor in both long-term climate conditions and short-term weather events. Less ice cover means warming accelerates, and it means extreme weather events, including intense storms, flooding, droughts, and Arctic blasts, become more common.

Release of methane from melting permafrost has the potential to set off a major positive feedback that could add as much as 2 degrees C to current forecasts for 2100, according to some scientists. 

The bottom line is that the latest Arctic Report Card is giving us a failing grade, and the semester is almost over.  

In this season, Dickens’ Christmas Carol comes to mind.  After the Ghost of Christmases yet to come shows Scrooge his own grave, Scrooge asks, “Are these the shadows of things that will be, or are these the shadows of the things that may be only?”

For another few years, these dire climate predictions are the shadows of things that may be, only.  But the future world we’re fashioning right now is unsustainable and absent aggressive action, it will be irrevocable. 

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Resource consumption at SAN is enormous, but so are potential savings.

It’s not easy visiting behind-the-scenes at a major airport – security protocols, you know – but a dozen STAY COOL members got to do it this Spring, guided by Paula Morreale and Katie Altobello, Associate Environmental Specialists at San Diego International Airport, after a warm welcome from Brendon Reed, Director of Planning & Environmental Affairs for the airport authority.

We met in the Innovation room, where we got a glimpse of some fascinating ideas for the future, including sleep cubicles in the terminals.

Next up was Terminal 2, the first airport terminal in the world to receive LEED Platinum certification, the highest available, and where SAN staff continue to find ways to make the facility even more sustainable.

For example, low-flow fixtures save four million gallons of water annually; capturing rainfall from the new parking plaza and using it in the cooling system saves another two million gallons of potable water a year (and keeps the runoff out of the Bay). They even manage to get thousands of gallons of clean water each year by recovering the condensate from air conditioners on passenger boarding bridges.

The airport’s solar array generates 5.5 megawatts, of clean, renewable energy.

Other smart improvements at the terminal include drought-tolerant landscaping, lots of natural light in the interior, a reflective roof, energy-efficient lighting and equipment, and efficient and clean power units at the gates so parked aircraft aren’t running their dirtier power for air conditioning and lighting.

The airport also cuts down on food waste by recovering and donating unused edibles (54K pounds in 2017) and composting the rest (365 tons in 2017). Special collection bins at security allow passengers to empty containers and reuse them once through screening.

SAN supports greenhouse gas reduction with incentives to rideshare companies for hybrids, alternative fuels and carpools, and with “The Good Traveler,” a program that sells third-party approved carbon offsets to passengers.

Our last stop was an expanse of scrubby grasses ringed by a tall steel fence. Here among an array of support facilities and under the roar of jets lies one of the most productive nesting colonies for the endangered California Least Tern, carefully nurtured by SAN staff.

Finally, we heard how the Environmental Affairs is tasked with figuring out how the airport can continue operating in the face of a changing climate. The San Diego Airport Climate Resilience Plan features strategies to manage storm water, and protect against rising seas. Meanwhile, a redesign of Terminal 1 will incorporate major sustainable design features – perhaps a future behind-the-scenes tour for STAY COOL members.

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Good News – we can decarbonize the economy – including the transportation sector – sooner than we thought, at a net savings!

By John Atcheson, STAY COOL for Grandkids Advisory Council Member

One of the most remarkable revolutions in clean energy is how rapidly the price of battery storage has plummeted, and how much better batteries are performing. This means that electric vehicles (EVs) will soon have a lower first cost than internal combustion engines (ICE) here in the US. They already have far lower fuel and maintenance costs. In Europe – which taxes fossil fuels at a relatively high rate – EVs are already cheaper on a life cycle basis than ICE cars, and in three years they will be here in the US.

As battery costs fall, the range of EVs goes up, and 500 miles per charge will be affordable soon.  At the same time, charging times are going down, and next generation batteries could lower them to five minutes or so.  According to Bloomberg NEF, electric cars will have about a quarter of the global market by 2030, and nearly half by 2040, and that’s without a carbon price or cap.  Given the drop in battery prices and the improvements in capacity, either policy would make the transition happen faster and save us all a lot of money.

But the revolution in battery storage will not just make ICE cars obsolete; it’s already making fossil fuel power plants obsolete.  New renewable energy capacity is already cheaper than building new fossil fuel power plants, and in some markets it’s cheaper to shut down existing fossil fuel power plants and replace them with wind or solar; as prices drop, that will be the case for more and more markets, and at that point, switching to clean energy generation will be even more of a no-brainer, allowing us to decarbonize the electricity sector at a net savings.  The chart below shows how rapidly costs have come down. And according to BNEF, prices will continue to drop, falling from $176 per kilowatt hour in 2018 to $87 per kWh in 2025, and just $62 per kWh in 2030.  

Volume weighted average price is simply the average price – in this case of battery packs – weighted by volume of sales. 

Obviously, putting a price on carbon would make the transition to clean energy happen even faster, but the point is, anyone who tells you we don’t have the technology to cut greenhouse gasses or who tries to tell you we can’t afford it, is … well … full of hot air.

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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.

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Reducing Emissions with Electric Buses

Reducing transportation-related GHG emissions may be our hardest problem in holding global warming to 2°C.  Worldwide, at any given time, there are millions of cars, buses, trucks, trains and planes releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. A transition to electric vehicles is badly needed.

One avenue of hope is the growing interest by cities in electric buses (EBs).  In terms of GHG emissions, 1 bus equals 20 cars.  And most major cities have several thousand buses, so the impact is huge.  Recently San Diego received a $41M grant from California’s cap and trade program and the SB 1 gas tax increase.  Much of that will go to buy 11 electric buses for the MTS fleet.

Other U.S. cities are also getting on the electric bus wagon – New York City is testing 11 EBs and plans for an all-electric fleet by 2040.  Los Angeles will spend more than $36M this year on EBs as part of its plan to have a zero-emission fleet by 2030.

Internationally, London has nearly 200 electric buses, and Paris has pledged for all EBs by 2025.  But the international city with the most EBs is Shenzhen, China. With 12.5 million

A worker walks past BYD Co. electric buses parked at a public transportation hub in Shenzhen, China, on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. China, the worlds biggest auto market, may have all buses powered by batteries by 2020 and all other vehicles will follow suit by 2030, BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu predicts. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

people and horrid air pollution, Shenzhen last year went to an all-EB system – 16,359 EBs total!  Overall, China already has 385,00 EBs and is adding 9,500 more every 5 weeks.

So why are cities still buying fossil fuel-burning buses?  Simple answer – the cost.  An electric bus currently costs much, much more than a diesel or natural gas bus.  And then there is infrastructure, namely charging stations.  But purchase costs are coming down as production scale ramps up, and fuel/maintenance costs are significantly lower for EBs.

How can STAY COOL help support a transition to EBs in San Diego?  STAY COOL is working with SANDAG transportation planners to provide grass-roots support for new ideas such as more EBs.  We also will be encouraging federal support for EB funding through our members of Congress.  Every FF-burning bus replaced with an EB is a step toward zero emissions.

This post was contributed by STAY COOL Advisor David Engel.

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Our many approaches to Climate Action

By Dennis Griffin

As a group STAY COOL for Grandkids has and continues to address all actions to combat Climate Change.   The mission of STAY COOL is to speak for those too young to have a voice regarding climate policies: our children and grandchildren.  STAY COOL harnesses the power of elders through education and advocacy for action on climate change issues in the San Diego region.

STAY COOL was recently referred to as “elderly do-gooders” a moniker that we now embrace.

As a STAY COOL advisor, I recently launched a new Facebook page titled “DIY (Do it yourself) Climate Action.”  The focus of this site is on personal actions that individuals can take to combat climate change.  There are many sites that address climate change and this site’s focus is on “walking the talk.”

We can take tangible steps toward combating climate change through personal actions:

  • Install solar on our roofs
  • Drive an electric car
  • Take low carbon vacations
  • Change our diet by replacing animal protein with plant protein
  • Divest ourselves from fossil fuels by changing our investments to show our environmental values
  • Share our concerns about the future with our children and grandchildren (other demands on their time and attention may be keeping them uninformed).

I encourage you to like and follow DIY Climate Action Facebook Page just like you do with SC4G’s Facebook Page.

I have taken these actions myself and am willing to assist STAY COOL members who wish to take these personal actions toward combating climate change.  I can be reached at or 858-335-3340.

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STAY COOL Promotes Ambitious GHG Reduction Targets for San Diego Region

Members of the STAY COOL Advisory Council recently traveled to Riverside to testify at the final public hearing of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), where the Board decided on 2035 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction targets for each of the 18 metropolitan areas in California.

STAY COOL was one of several organizations that submitted letters to CARB advocating for higher GHG reduction targets for the San Diego region than either SANDAG or the CARB staff were recommending.  STAY COOL also offered specific recommendations for ways that our region could achieve greater reductions.  Click here to download a PDF of the letter we submitted: STAY COOL – Letter ref CARB SB 375 Targets – 3-19-18.

Bob Leiter and Linda Pratt testified at the hearing along with nearly 30 other speakers from the San Diego region who supported higher targets.  While the CARB Board accepted the recommendations of their staff regarding the numerical targets, STAY COOL and other organizations were successful in making them aware of the elevated level of support in the San Diego region for aggressive climate plans and actions at the state, regional and local levels.  We will keep our members informed on future opportunities to weigh in on these important issues.

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A Wake Up Call

In response to President Trump’s decision to pull out of the landmark Paris Climate Accords, STAY COOL Advisory Council Chair Bob Leiter submitted a shorten version of the following opinion editorial on June 4, 2017 to the San Diego Union-Tribune:

When President Trump announced on Thursday that the United States would walk away from the Paris climate accord, concern for my grandchildren first came to my mind. Climate change is the biggest global threat to future generations.

We know from solid scientific data that CO2 trapped in the atmosphere leads to global warming, and 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that this warming over the past century is due to human activities.

These emissions remain for decades, ultimately passing the consequences on to our children, and our grandkids. Because of these man-made emissions, our planet is on a path toward more warming, rising sea levels, poor public health, extreme heat waves and droughts in the decades ahead. Here in San Diego, we have already experienced the devastation of drought and impact of wildfires.

All the indicators are going in the wrong direction. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest update to its greenhouse gas index, combined greenhouses gases in the atmosphere increased by 2.5 percent in 2016. Last year was the hottest year on record.

President Trump’s misinformed statements on Thursday, and the well-reasoned responses to them from leaders at the international, state and local level, point out the importance of education and outreach on this critical topic.  Our organization, STAY COOL for Grandkids, is one of many here in the San Diego region that is working hard to educate our youth and our elders on the threat of global warming and the practical solutions that are available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without harming the economy or placing an undue burden on disadvantaged communities.

 The President’s decision was a wake-up call that none of us should ignore.

In addition, STAY COOL Advisor Laura Schumacher got this letter published in the June 6, 2017 issue of the Union Tribune:

Regarding “Pope, Trump discuss climate change” (May 25), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the administration is trying to balance addressing climate change against economic interests for Americans.

We don’t need to choose between the economy and climate change, if the administration would only look at the carbon fee and dividend solution proposed by Citizens Climate Lobby.

Studies show a revenue-neutral carbon tax, with 100 percent of the net revenue returned directly to households, will reduce gas emissions 52 percent below 1990 levels within 20 years while growing the economy and saving lives. This is the kind of market-based solution even Republicans can support.

Laura Schumacher
San Diego

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STAY COOL for Grandkids Lends Its Support to Measure A

STAY COOL for Grandkids has announced its support for Measure A, the proposed half cent sales tax that will fund major investments in public transportation, open space and other quality of life improvements in the San Diego region. We are happy to join with several other organizations in lending our support to this important initiative, which is on the November 8, 2016 ballot.

Members of the STAY COOL Advisory Board have carefully reviewed the proposed measure, and our organization recently co-sponsored a public forum at which proponents and opponents of the measure presented their views. We have concluded that the proposed measure will provide significant opportunities for the San Diego region to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as follows:
• $7.5 billion to fund public transportation
• $2 billion for habitat preservation
• $540 million for bicycle and pedestrian improvements
• Commitment to build all priority transit projects within 15 years, including the new Purple Line trolley.
• $4.3 billion to cities for local infrastructure as well as climate adaptation
• $1.9 billion for HOV and managed lanes to encourage carpooling and allow buses to bypass congestion
• Enable SANDAG to exceed SB 375 greenhouse gas reduction targets for both 2020 and 2035

We recognize that there is still a divergence of opinion on the merits of Measure A. For example, the San Diego Union-Tribune recently published an editorial opposing Measure A because they believe that self-driving cars will reduce the need for new public transportation investments. At the same time, other well-respected environmental organizations have criticized the measure because they believe it does not provide adequate funding for public transit projects and other investments that will reduce GHG emissions.

The STAY COOL Advisory Board has carefully considered these arguments, but we are convinced Measure A will provide significant funding for projects needed now to reduce our dependence on automobiles and promote compact urban development in areas well served by public transit.

At the same time, it is critically important for SANDAG to continue the dialogue with local environmental groups along with other stakeholder groups as it begins the next update of its Regional Plan. STAY COOL has strongly supported the City of San Diego’s pioneering Climate Action Plan, and we have already begun to provide input to the County of San Diego on its forthcoming Climate Action Plan. We would like to work with SANDAG to make sure its future plans and investment strategies are just as ambitious as those of its local governments with regard to reducing GHG emissions, while at the same time addressing other important environmental, economic and social goals for the region.

The San Diego region is widely considered to be a model for sustainability planning. It is critical for us all to focus on how our plans and actions can lead to reduced GHG emissions and a better quality of life for current and future generations of San Diegans.

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December 2014 Meeting Summary

Thank you to the 20 attendees who joined us for our December 2014 STAY COOL member meeting in Del Mar. At this meeting we first heard from Nancy Bragado on the City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).

For background, the City of San Diego’s current CAP has been in development since 2011, managed by four different city mayors. Mayor Faulconer released the current draft in September 2014. It is currently out for environmental review and will come before the entire city council for final approval in summer or fall 2015. The city’s team has done a fine job with a comprehensive public outreach plan that included: more than 30 public presentations since 2011, an Environmental & Economic Sustainability Task Force independent advisory body formed solely for the CAP, and extensive outreach to business and environmental organizations.

The main objective of the plan (in addition to meeting state-mandated emissions reductions goals), is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) while strengthening the economy and improving San Diego’s quality of life. The CAP supports the city’s 2008 general plan.

In 2010 new baseline emissions inventory was conducted. Transportation is the largestpiechartBragado source of GHG, with electricity and natural gas combined nearly making up the other half (see pie chart at right).

The five strategies for reducing emissions outlined in the San Diego Climate Action Plan are:

  • Energy and water efficient buildings
    • Increase energy efficiency and reduce water usage
    • Create a mix of regulatory mandates and incentives to improve building performance
    • Increase renewable energy at municipal facilities
  • Clean & Renewable Energy
    • Facilitate installation of renewable energy locally
    • Create jobs in renewable energy sector
  • Bicycling, walking, transit and land use
    • Implement smart growth and promote alternative modes of travel
    • Reduce vehicle miles traveled, improve mobility and reduce fuel consumption
  • Zero waste
    • Achieve a 75% waste diversion rate to landfills by 2020
    • Reach 90% diversion rate by 2035
  • Climate Resiliency (adaptation)
    • Increase the City’s urban tree canopy coverage
    • Calls for a stand-alone Adaptation Plan (the city will work on this at a future date)

Next steps include continued Environmental Committee work, preparing the final environmental document, and reviewing and incorporating public comments. There is still time to submit your input: Later next year, the team will finalize the plan and prepare the CEQA documentation for City Council consideration.

In the end, San Diegans will have to choose to use transit and alternative forms of transportation in order for emissions reductions goals to be achieved. That likely won’t happen without broad support and participation. This is where STAY COOL can help – by showing public support for these ambitious goals.

Gail Welch, Senior Manager of Sustainability from Qualcomm shared how a company can go green while yielding financial benefits. She shared a video and presentation on Qualcomm’s sustainability practices. Qualcomm has been successful at Qualcomm_QWestRoofPVincreasing energy efficiency and reducing the company’s carbon footprint while cutting costs. Specifically, the company has implemented more than 500 projects to reduce CO2 emissions throughout their 11,000,000 square feet of facilities. Qualcomm believes sustainability is a core business value, but efforts must also help the bottom line. Three electrical co-generation facilities produce about 90 percent of their electricity requirements, saving the company $4 million in energy expenses each year.

If you would like to view the ten minute corporate video Gail presented on December 9, please email Program Manager Sarah Benson with your request to receive a digital copy.

Sarah shared recent member activities, including a list of 2014 accomplishments. Click here to download what we have achieved in the past year: 2014 Accomplishments (a future blog post will review these accomplishments). We look forward to another year of membership growth, educational events and additional ways for our members to become “grandparent advocates.” Stay tuned!

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