By Doug Porter
If you look past the preordained stories about Black Friday either being a success, disaster or nothing-burger for shoppers, the coming climate summit in Paris is the big story of this holiday weekend.
The United Nations meeting, Nov. 30-Dec 11, will discuss the wording of an international treaty to try to prevent climate change getting out of hand. Prognosticators are saying we should expect an agreement pointing in the right direction, but lacking enough enforceable specifics to really solve the complex problem of saving the planet from ourselves.
Much of what needs to be done will end up being the task of local and regional governments. California Gov. Jerry Brown has been brokering his own international climate agreement with regional governments, including states and provinces in Brazil, Germany and Mexico. They’ve agreed to cut their emissions 80 percent or more by mid-century.
(See SD350.org’s Keith Fowler article here at SDFP for more on Gov. Jerry Brown’s role)
If Paris succeeds, Figueres will be entitled to the lion’s share of the credit. She has learned the lessons of Copenhagen, and worked closely with the French hosts on an unprecedented diplomatic push around the world. She also cites “changes in the real economy – fundamentals that have changed” – the cost of renewable energy has plummeted (solar power is 70% cheaper than in 2009); investment in clean fuels has increased; and now most of the world’s big economies have legislation on greenhouse gas emissions. “At Copenhagen, we tried to take a big huge cathedral dome and drop it down on to the absence of any pillars. Where were the pillars for that? Well, obviously the dome falls and crashes. This time, we have very strong pillars,” she says.
But Figueres has also benefited from a sea-change in climate geopolitics that has taken place since Copenhagen – the reversal of China’s stance on international cooperation on global warming.
The New Normal
The meetings in Paris come just days after the United Nations World Meteorological Organization announced that predictions about Earth’s weather patterns reaching a “new normal” appear to be coming true, as 2015 will be the hottest year on record, while 2016 could be even hotter.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
The WMO’s preliminary estimate based on data from January to October 2015 reveals that the global average surface temperature was around 0.73 degrees Celsius above the average from 1961 to 1990, which was 14 degrees Celsius.
The organization says the years between 2011 and 2015 have been the hottest five-year period on record, while the 10 warmest years have all been since 1998. Temperatures in several land areas, including the continental US, Russia, Australia, South America, and Europe have broken existing records by several margins.
Due to the influence of El Nino, which is set to last into the middle of 2016, and continually rising levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, which come from the burning of coal, oil and gas, 2016 may even surpass those levels, the WMO says.
The Troglodytes Fight Back
Gov. Jerry Brown’s characterization of climate change deniers as Troglodytes last summer hit the nail on the head. They’ve been busy as of late, working to undermine or even prevent any agreements at the UN summit.
Republicans Senators have attempted to prevent funding for the Green Climate Fund (seen as critical to sealing a deal at Paris), designed to help poor countries get off fossil fuels and protect their people from future climate change. They are threatening to block passage of the year-end spending bill, which must pass Congress by Dec. 11 to keep the government open.
They’ve also reached out to leaders in other countries, warning that whatever deal the Black Guy in the White House agrees to won’t be good enough for the Congress.
GOP Senate staff, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) energy aide Neil Chatterjee, has been reaching out to foreign officials over the past months to warn that the White House’s pledges of emissions reductions and aid dollars won’t withstand congressional opposition — and especially the possible election of a new Republican president. E.U. members who have been among the strongest proponents of a stringent deal in Paris this year were on their call list.
SDG&E Puts on the Boxing Gloves
Following extensive lobbying against consumers having a say in where their electricity comes from, the state passed a law barring ratepayer funds from being used by utility companies seeking to preserve monopolies.
Now San Diego Gas and electric has announced the formation of an investor-backed marketing division to promote its views on community choice aggregation and overall power needs.
Former City Beat reporter Joshua Emerson Smith, who’s now gone over to the dark side at the Union-Tribune, gives us the low-down:
For the first time in years, that debate could turn into a multimillion-dollar fight, pitting San Diego Gas & Electric against environmental groups, with city leaders and the public squeezed in between. At stake could be San Diego’s lofty proposal to use only renewable energy by 2035 and the cost for customers to get there.
For more than a century, investor-owned utilities have chosen how much electricity to tap from one source or another – coal, natural gas, uranium, hydro power, wind, solar and so on. But during the past decade, a handful of municipalities have wrenched away the decision-making by forming nonprofit entities that direct those utilities on how to source their power.
I’ll bet consumers can look forward to warm and fuzzy ads, along with other public relations efforts, reminding us how wonderful SDG&E is, implying that the lights might not stay on if we don’t let them have their way.
Be sure to watch supposedly environmentally friendly Democrats in the coming months, as the utility maintains a very bi-partisan funding pipeline.
Watering Down Water-Billing at City Hall
Meanwhile, over at City Beat, columnist Aaryn Belfer takes the city council to task for some not-so-creative screwing of those of us who’ve been trying to conserve water.
After years of neglect, our city’s water infrastructure is finally getting some attention. That overdue realization, along with the high costs of using less water, means some method had to be found to raise some cash.
After pointing out the latest bad news confirming that more than one-fifth of all San Diegans live in poverty, Belfer lets us know we’ll all be sharing the new burden at the faucet equally, regardless of water usage, income or disability.
But who has time to tackle that? Certainly not the city council, and not the strange coalition of businesses and environmental groups that lobbied for the water fee increases. The environmentalists were definitely on the wrong side of this decision, ignoring, as they frequently do, the reality that conservation and attention to environmental issues is a luxury of the privileged classes.
Despite the best efforts of Councilmembers David Alvarez and Scott Sherman to coax some complex thinking out of their counterparts, the poor in San Diego—which includes the elderly and the disabled—are going to be stung with each bill as water rates skyrocket 40 percent by 2019.
But fear not. This is 1 percent less than what Mayor Faulconer and the water folks had asked for. Those City Councilmembers went rogue when they didn’t approve that 1 percent, citing a desire “to soften the burden on ratepayers.” Isn’t that nice of them? They deserve a plaque for such conscientious unburdening.
Getting Gouged at the Pump
Thomas Elias penned an op-ed for The Californian reminding consumers about the unabated price gouging in gasoline pricing in the Golden State.
For every measuring stick except a comparison with the price of gasoline four months ago leads to the unmistakable conclusion that this state’s three biggest gasoline refiners – Valero, Tesoro and Chevron – are still gouging customers like they did at mid-summer, when prices topped $4 per gallon in many places.
Now prices are down to $2.60 in some spots, while it’s hard to find gas anywhere at prices over $3.60 per gallon.
That’s taking some heat off the big refiners, but it should not. For even when this state’s higher-than-normal gasoline taxes are figured in, Californians are still paying about 60 cents per gallon more than the average price in many other states with far worse access to refined gasoline.
The big oil companies’ refining operations, despite the lower profits caused by the decline of oil prices, continue to tell the real story of how Californians are getting shafted.
Chevron’s refining operations netted a whopping $2.6 billion in the first nine months of 2015, compared with $1.4 billion last year.
Tesoro raked in $770 million just from California gasoline refining in the third quarter, double the company’s take for the 2014 July-to-September period and about four times its average quarterly profit of $169 million over the past decade.
Valero made $342 million on California refining during the third quarter, 14 times more than last year.
Keep this in mind the next time you hear a news story about refinery problems or California’s higher standards for gasoline. By the way, according to the Los Angeles Times, in California a “dozen oil companies or industry groups spent almost a total of $11.3 million on lobbying from July 1 to Sept. 30.”
Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
Barrio Art Jam III
Saturday, November 28th, 5-11pm ($10 Donation)
La Bodega Gallery, 2196 Logan Ave.
Updates & Info
Hosted by San Diego Latin Jazz great, Bill Caballero.
Featured bands : Pablo Cantua / Israel Maldonado / Trio Gadgo / Orquesta Bi-Nacional de Mambo / Kotolan / Agua Dulce
Art Show Curated by Ricardo Islas & Mario Chacon
Paris Climate Talks Outreach & Art Build
Sunday, November 29th, 10am-4pm
Centro Cultural, 2004 Park Blvd.
Updates & Info
As the climate talks are set to kick off in Paris, SanDiego350 will gather to raise awareness about what’s at stake for us and our planet and call on world leaders to #ActonClimate and Keep Fossil Fuels #InTheGround – including a ban on fracking in California.
We’ll be doing outreach, raising awareness and also using creativity to produce signs, banners and props for a demonstration marking the end of the Paris talks on Dec 12 (also in Balboa Park, info here:).
We’ll be at the Centro Cultural all day (10-4) so please stop by for 3-4 hours at your convenience to help. No artistic talent or materials required – just a desire to have fun and meet great people!
San Diego’s Peace Bazaar
Saturday, Dec. 5th, 10am – 2pm
Mid-City Gym 4302 Landis St.
Updates & Info
The “Peace on Earth Holiday Bazaar” has a great turnout year after year. We’ve grown to over 25 wonderful local not-for-profit community organizations that are working for a peaceful, just, and environmentally healthy world. Does your group want a TABLE?! See our Resources page.
This is a fun and family event! In the past, we’ve had entertainment by carolers, circus acts, TranscenDANCE performers, and more. Come see the excitement this year!
The Mid-City Gym is located in an active community area, one block South of the popular City Heights Farmers’ Market (which occurs every Sat 9am-1pm). Come support many important causes and get great holiday gifts without setting foot in a shopping mall!
36th Annual OB Holiday Parade
Saturday, December 5th, 5:05pm (OB time)
Newport Ave, Ocean Beach
Updates & Info
The Ocean Beach Town Council is proud to bring you the 36th Annual OB Holiday Parade. Our 2015 Parade Theme is “Joy to the Sea, 36 Years Celebrating OB.”
For more than 35 years, our quaint little surfing village of Ocean Beach has hosted one of the best Holiday Parades in SoCal. On Saturday, December 5th, Newport Avenue is lined with colorful OBceans and visitors all eagerly awaiting the commencement of the 36th Annual OB Holiday Parade at 5:05pm.
For some, it’s the excitement of seeing the Point Loma Marching Band strut their way down the street or the SD Roller Derby Dolls in their eye-catching costumes. For others, it’s watching the VW Beetle club and classic Woodies roll down Newport Ave. Some prefer the motorcycles, bright-lit floats and countless bands that fill the beach with live music. Whatever your pleasure, OB has it all. And…of course…the big man himself, Santa Claus, will be making his appearance.
On This Day: 1936 – Some 1,200 workers sat down at Midland Steel, forcing recognition of the United Auto Workers, Detroit. 1967 – Capitol Records released the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album. 1978 – San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, a gay-rights activist, were shot to death inside City Hall by Dan White, a former supervisor.
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