Environment Report: Climate Plans Across the Region Are Hitting Roadblocks - Voice of San Diego

Science/Environment

Environment Report: Climate Plans Across the Region Are Hitting Roadblocks

A pair of raptors find love, a museum finds a creative use for TikTok and more in our biweekly roundup of environmental news.

The intersection of Friars Road and Frazee Road / Photo by Dustin Michelson

San Diego isn’t setting aside any new funding to help meet legally binding greenhouse gas reduction goals in its proposed budget for next year, and climate change advocates aren’t hopeful the City Council will reverse that.

This spring, the Sustainability Department cited stresses of COVID-19 on city finances. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, however, requested that the department receive an 84 percent increase but solely to fund a controversial streetlight sensor program.

Faulconer pulled back on that $1.4 million request after pressure mounted at budget hearings from members of the public and from within the City Council. But instead of staying in the Sustainability Department, that money is likely to go back into the city’s general fund to be redistributed to other things.

“We were hoping for a small sliver of those funds to go toward the Climate Action Plan update,” said Maleeka Marsden, the Climate Action Campaign advocacy group’s co-director of policy.

The city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst explained in April what a business-as-usual Sustainability Department budget looks like for climate planning, or lack thereof. It means the city would hit the breaks on updating the 2015 Climate Action Plan, which would have included the hiring of technical consultants to take a new inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions based on the latest and best available science.

Marsden said the consultants would cost about $250,000. The current action plan calls for the city to cut emissions in half by 2035 — something that was considered “very ambitious” at the time, Marsden said. But now, most don’t think it goes far enough.

Three years after San Diego set its climate goals, the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change urged the world to kick its fossil fuel habits entirely by 2050 at the latest. Even then, we’re going to have to develop technology that can remove excess world-warming carbon dioxide from the air.

A zero-increase Sustainability Department budget also means stalling new hires to support planning for the onslaught of sea-level rise and wildfires via the city’s Climate Resiliency Plan as well as pursuit of the city’s first Climate Equity Report, according to the independent budget analyst.

The public likely won’t know how the smart streetlight funding is redistributed to other city needs until later this week, when City Council members issue individual budget memos.

In the meantime, climate change planning is falling victim across the region. The city of El Cajon rescinded the climate plan it approved last summer but hopes to replace it with a “less expensive version,” the Union Tribune reported.

The Climate Action Campaign also said Vista is pushing back its updated plan until officials can meet in person. Coronado is still pursuing its plan next year, but the city has said the timeline may slip due to COVID-19. And San Marcos is likely delaying its climate plan update until later this summer.

­Twitterpated Ospreys Make First Love Nest at Scripps Pier

A pair of ospreys — a fish-eating raptor with a six-foot wingspan — now roost off the research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla. Scripps people know well the presence of a lonely osprey who sat atop scientific instruments gazing hopefully into the gray of the marine layer.

Thanks to a donated artificial nesting box from Bev Grant and Art Cooley installed this year, its mate finally agreed to settle down and commit already. The last time the pair were spotted together was May 14, Brittany Hook from Scripps communications wrote in an email.

Osprey couple off pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
An osprey couple nests in a new artificial nesting box installed off the Scripps research pier in May. It’s the first time a pair has nested there. / Photo courtesy of Shelby A. Jones

Ospreys experienced a dramatic die-off between the 1940s and the 1970s, like the Bald Eagle, when the synthetic insecticide DDT was in wide use. Their numbers along the East Coast dropped from an estimated 1,000 active nests in the 1940s to about 150 in 1969.

Scripps hopes to install a camera to livestream the love affair by next mating season.

Guys, It’s ‘Mollusk Monday’

TikTok can be pretty terrible. But if your kids are using it, they can learn something besides synchronized dances.

The staff of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh are satisfying my nerd needs from a COVID-19 friendly distance. My favorite part of this TikTok series is Mollusk Monday from Tim Pearce (imagine if Rick Steves and Will Forte had a lovechild).

The museum staff interview bearded dragons and show how to create pots for seedlings out of newspapers. So, take your kid’s phone and search “carnegiemnh.” It’ll mess with the algorithm and force more science content into their feed.

Corrections: An earlier version of this post misidentified Maleeka Marsden.

An earlier version of this story misidentified when the osprey pair were last seen together on their nest.

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