San Diego On The Front Lines Of Global Warming Impacts - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego On The Front Lines Of Global Warming Impacts

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Pressure is mounting for the Obama administration to use the 1990 Clean Air Act to crack down on global warming emissions. On Monday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown called on the EPA to use the act to fight climate change.

Increasing emissions has scientists here in San Diego worried because they say global warming will have an especially strong impact on our area. Planes, trains and automobiles are some of the biggest contributors to global warming here in San Diego. Our city's driving habits add CO-2 to the atmosphere at a rate nearly 50 percent higher than the rest of the state. Our contribution to this global problem might seem small, but we're not off the hook.

Every year the U.S. produces about 6 billion tons of carbon emissions, and they're still climbing. If greenhouse gas pollution continues at its current rate, this international problem will have a big impact on San Diego. Richard C. J. Sommerville, an award-winning researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, shares his predictions for our city's environmental future.

"In my opinion the whole world has to reduce CO-2 emissions because our climate is not determined by what San Diego produces, the atmosphere mixes it all around. So we have to drastically reduce the rate at which the whole world puts CO-2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere," Sommerville said.

Sommerville says we have to consider the big picture. He's part of a group of UCSD scientists who share the Nobel Prize with Al Gore for their work on climate change. Sommerville warns that if the world doesn't make some drastic changes, San Diego will be on the front lines of global warming's impacts.

"I think two of the kinds of things we can be sure of seeing in San Diego, first of all there will be water supply issues. There's going to be less water from the rivers which we use for water supply, there's going to be less snow pack in the Sierras which we use for water supply," he said.

San Diego is already in the middle of one of the worst water crises in decades, and that's not all. Increase wildfire risk and rising sea levels will also pose increasing dangers.

"We lose cliff, for example, to the sea when a combo of bad things happen: when you have a strong storm, a high astronomical tide, strong onshore winds, so if the level of the sea is higher in addition to all that then it just raises the likelihood of damage. The 20-year storm or the 100-year storm becomes the 5-year storm of the 10-year storm," Sommerville said.

Every year, San Diego produces about 34 million tons of CO-2 - that's about one-half of one percent of the country's total. But Sommerville says there's still a lot of work to be done.

"We're talking about much greater reliance on renewable energy, we're talking about greater reliance on nuclear power, we're talking about massive efforts at improving conservation and energy efficiency. We're talking really about cuts upwards of 50 percent," he said.

Sommerville says our federal, state and local governments need to make battling global warming a top priority, and change needs to start with the people who call this planet home.

"We're all in this together. You can't change 'our' climate just by changing 'our' emissions of carbon dioxide. You have to do it globally," he said.

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