Letter to the Editor: Issa should heed the words of Pope Francis

By David Engel

Pope Francis will address the U.S. Congress soon (“Congress returns to long list of unfinished business,” Sept. 7) to express concerns about the dangers of global warming. Francis stated in his encyclical that science has shown global warming is happening and human activities are responsible. He believes wealthy nations have a moral obligation to act.

Congressman Darrell Issa understands global warming is real but is unwilling to act because he is “worried about costs.”

Pope Francis believes that politicians must act on global warming. He states in his encyclical they should be courageous “and leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility.”

Mr. Issa should take Pope Francis’ advice to heart.

The climate costs of global warming to our grandchildren should dominate his worries, not short-term costs. Listen to what Pope Francis is saying and act.

Originally published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, September 17, 2015

Help Move San Diego Forward – Now is Your Chance to Weigh in on SANDAG’s Regional Plan

Beginning tonight, SANDAG is holding seven evening workshops to present a draft of San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan. The purpose is to share the plan with the public and receive public comments. View the schedule here.

San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan outlines the strategy for transportation planning workshopsand funding, so it plays an important role in how our regional will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

It is important at this stage in the Regional Plan draft that SANDAG receives and records comments from the public as to the shortfalls of the plan. Please plan to attend the workshop in your neighborhood. It would help if you arrive early, talk to others about your concerns and be a bit vocal. Please pass this email on to others who may be able to attend.

Below are suggested key messages:

  • As a grandparent, I am concerned about future plans for transportation in our region. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emission and with smart planning, we can significantly reduce emissions caused by transportation in the coming years.
  • SANDAG has the ability to save our region money, protect our environment and improve quality of life for future generations if we reallocate our TransNet Transportation Tax funds from freeway expansion to early-stage transit development. Please consider incorporating a “transit first” alternative that doesn’t include any future freeway expansion and instead focuses investments on transit, bike and walk infrastructure.
  • The plan points out that we need to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) from current levels by significant percentages if we are to meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020, 2035 and 2050. Instead of increasing the number of freeway lanes (that will cost billions of dollars), please first consider using our existing lanes for the Bus Rapid Transit lines and managed lanes.
  • Emissions from transportation affects the health of our most vulnerable populations, especially children and the elderly. Recently an appellate court ruled that the last Regional Transportation Plan needed to include health impact assessments for expanding our freeway system and the State Supreme Court said it would not review this issue, essentially letting the ruling stand. Please ensure the next regional plan includes assessments and data on how many more asthma and cancer cases will result from the expansion of freeways.

If you can’t attend a workshop, submit a comment here.

And thank you, to our STAY COOL members, for all you do to help create a cooler future for our grandkids!

2014 Was a Hot Year for STAY COOL – a Highlight of our Accomplishments

While we’re not happy to hear that 2014 may have been the hottest year on record, STAY COOL is proud to boast about own 2014 “hot” accomplishments.

STAY COOL was founded just two years ago and since kicking off the organization with a small group of founding members, we have recruited more than 115 members in the San Diego region with several others from outside our region.

In 2014 we drafted our first member declaration, and for those who have made the commitment, we provided a free STAY COOL t-shirt (see photo below). If you haven’t signed the declaration yet, find it here: http://www.staycool4grandkids.org/declaration

March 21, 2014 - San Diego People's Climate March (from left to right: Sarah Benson, Peg Engel, David Engel)

March 21, 2014 – San Diego People’s Climate March (from left to right: Sarah Benson, Peg Engel, David Engel)

Today, we also have a growing audience of Facebook followers, with 162 friends. Following our Facebook feed is a great way to stay abreast of our events, action alerts and local climate change hot topics. Not connected to us on Facebook yet? Find us here: https://www.facebook.com/StayCool

Our bi-monthly STAY COOL member meetings in 2014 had a combined attendance of more than 120. In the past year, we heard from Nancy Bragado, the Deputy Planning Director with the City of San Diego on the City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan draft. Charles F. Kennel shared insights from his May trip to the Vatican. In July, we heard from Jim Stone of Circulate San Diego and Laura Schumacher about the San Diego Unified PTA Council’s update on climate change education. Our May speakers was Dr. Dan Cayan, a Research Meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. And in March, we welcomed Brendan Reed from the City of Chula Vista to learn about their model sustainability programs and CAP. Our events helps to advance member understanding of climate science and climate polices, stimulate new ideas and reach agreement on effective advocacy activities. The meetings also foster a spirit of community, mutual trust, friendship, collaboration and empowerment amongst STAY COOL members.

This past summer, we hired a stellar intern, Ana Reyes. Under Ana’s guidance, we created informational STAY COOL videos featuring interviews with our members. In this two-minute video, she did a wonderful job of getting our members to explain why they got involved with STAY COOL and why we exist:

Ana was also able to kick start our Climate Action Plan tracking project. She created online documents for analyzing CAP progress in San Diego’s communities. Since then, we have partnered with the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, The San Diego Foundation and other non-profits to continue our CAP tracking efforts. We have met with this group several times and are mapping out a plan to track CAPs and engage our members in advocacy. Ana also helped with outreach to South County / Hispanic communities and met with the Climate Collaborative.

Stay Cool Member Meetings

Our March 6, 2014 meeting focused on Climate Action Plans and featured Brendan Reed from Chula Vista.

In 2014, we participated in several outreach and advocacy actions, such as sending Letters to the editor (UT San Diego), which were published four times by STAY COOL members. At one of our educational events, we collected 19 hand written letters urging for political action on climate change and sent them to Congressional Representatives and San Diego City Council Members. We submitted a letter in support of a measurable and enforceable Climate Action Plan to the San Diego City Council Environment Committee in advance of a new draft CAP. Members attended the SANDAG San Diego Forward public participation workshops on Transportation. This past fall, we submitted five letters to the SANDAG board of directors requesting they don’t appeal a challenge to the Regional Transportation Plan.

Additionally, along with launching this blog, the STAY COOL website was enhanced in 2014. We’d love to know what you think! Send your thoughts for what you’d like to read from us, and what you want to learn about from STAY COOL in 2015: sarah@staycool4grandkids.org.

Heat-Related Health Dangers of Global Warming in San Diego

By David Engel, STAY COOL Founder

The coming weekend and following week are forecast to be hot.  How hot?  Heat records will be broken and highs, even along the coast, are expected to break 90°F.  Here in Del Mar where I live, we have already experienced several 90°F days this year.  Later I will explain why 90°F is a dangerous temperature for San Diegans.  I believe it is safe to say that global warming has arrived in San Diego.

Most San Diegans are acutely aware of two major dangers posed by global warming – more severe wildfires and the possibility of future water shortages.  But there is another more insidious threat that has not received sufficient attention – that is, the dangers to human health as San Diego grows hotter.

San Diego has historically been blessed by a year-round mild c09112014Figure 1limate, with an average of only 1-2 days per year when the temperature exceeds 90°F.  However, according to a recent National Science Foundation-funded report, San Diego, 2050 Is Calling, by Climate Education Partners, the number of extreme heat days will increase more than seven-fold by 2050 (see graphic at right).

It is likely that this change will be gradual, with the possibility of each future year being a little hotter than the past.  When coupled with San Diego’s 70% average relative humidity, temperatures of 90°F will “feel like” 105°F and pose a danger of heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke (see graphic at left).Figure 2

Heat-related health dangers may be enhanced by the likelihood that San Diego’s relative humidity will also increase in future, warmer years.  Higher humidity means that sweating and associated evaporation of moisture from the skin, our physiological response to maintain normal body temperature, becomes less effective in keeping us cool.

What are “heat exhaustion” and “heat stroke”?  Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, confusion and weakness, dizziness, nausea, headache, and rapid heart rate.  If not properly treated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is generally defined by an internal body temperature of 104°F or higher, a lack of sweating, and often a severe headache, “flushed” or red skin, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, fast heart rate, fast breathing and confusion.  Heat stroke can result in damage to internal organs and even death.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat stroke is a leading cause of mortality among weather-related incidents.

Who is most at risk for heat-related health problems?  Elderly and very young San Diego residents will be most at risk for heat-related illness, especially those living in homes without air-conditioners.  The reason for this is the elderly and young are less capable of regulating their body temperature through perspiration.

People with chronic diseases such as asthma, heart and breathing problems also have a higher risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke during “heat waves”, defined as multiple days of high temperature like we will have this weekend.

What can San Diego communities do to prepare for more extreme heat days?  First, preparing for the adverse health effects of global warming must be a prominent part of community Climate Action Plans.  Many San Diego communities are now in the process of preparing these plans.  Second, community governments in cooperation with local news media can raise awareness of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Third, during heat waves ensure that the public is aware of the locations and availability of “cooling centers” such as public libraries, as well as swimming pools, where people without home air conditioning can go to escape the heat.  More information on preparedness is available in the 2013 publication, Preparing California for Extreme Heat (PDF), from CalEPA and the California Department of Public Health.

PDF link to Cool Zone locations

San Diego County’s Aging & Independence Services is coordinating Cool Zones throughout the county. To locate the Cool Zone site nearest you, call 800-510-2020 or click here to view a PDF list of all participating Cool Zone sites in San Diego County.

What can individuals do to prepare?  We should all be familiar with the warning signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Those with chronic medical conditions should check with their doctors about any precautions they should take.  Those with elderly parents or neighbors should check on them periodically during heat waves to determine if they are taking steps to prevent heat exhaustion.  And those with young children should watch carefully to make sure they do not over-exert during hot days.  Plan your outdoor activities during the early morning hours when temperatures are cooler, and wear light-weight, light-colored clothing.

What care should be given to victims of heat exhaustion or heat stroke?  If signs of heat exhaustion are present, take immediate steps to cool off the affected person.  Steps should include drinking water, removing any unnecessary clothing, and applying cool water to the skin.  And of course, try to get into a cooler environment, either in an air-conditioned building or under a shady tree.

If heat stroke is suspected, call emergency medical personnel immediately.  Until they arrive, try to cool the victim by fanning them while applying water to the skin.  If ice is available, apply ice packs to the neck, armpits, groin and back (areas with lots of blood vessels near the surface).

Scientific studies have determined that San Diego is likely to get hotter and more humid as global warming intensifies.  We can begin to prepare now by helping our communities and each other to be aware of, and ready for, some of the health-related problems that our hotter climate will bring.