Ibarra is a graduate student at San Diego State University in the Department of Geography. She lives in Chula Vista.
San Diego is taking steps to adapt to and mitigate against climate change, but there is more to be done. As a coastal city, we face many challenges that will become increasingly obvious as time progresses. Some of the effects of sea level rise and erosion are already visible on our local coasts and beaches. We must act swiftly and demand that public servants make decisions that will continue to make San Diego “America’s Finest City.”
Scientists and researchers have discovered that human behavior, particularly in more affluent countries such as the United States, is unsustainable for the planet. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report established that there is no doubt that human behavior is the cause of the elevated temperature of the globe.
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President Joe Biden attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November, apologized for the United States dropping out of the Paris Agreement during the previous administration and rejoined the agreement. While in the moment, people who trust climate change scientists and activists sighed in relief, some people knew that these promises and declarations were just artifice to continue pretending to be an example to the world in sustainability. Outside of the COP 26 conference, there were protests and demonstrations in Glasgow, Scotland, demanding that global leaders act on the issues. Global leaders are acknowledging the changing climate, and we must demand more than acknowledgment. We must demand action.
While the United States is already facing the effects of global climate change, we are fortunate to have mitigation strategies in place to help with recovery after a natural disaster occurs. While this seems like a viable solution, the major failure of this approach is to make people complacent. Unless you live in a place that is directly affected, it is easy to pretend that these often-catastrophic events are not occurring. Marginalized communities tend to take the brunt of the consequences, and the reactionary style we have adopted will not be successful long term.
In San Diego, we will soon be facing the most obvious effect of climate change on a coastal area — sea level rise. Many homes, businesses and roads will need to be relocated as the shoreline begins to encroach onto the city. We still can find adaptive measures to solve these issues, but we must act now.
While acknowledging climate change is a tiny step in the right direction, action is what will change the detrimental course we are on. Locally, experts in several sectors are already taking action to adapt and mitigate against climate change. Reducing greenhouse emissions is one of the priorities established by the city of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan. Mitigation and adaptation in San Diego’s various sectors appear through different actions: The energy sector is focused on creating more opportunities to harness solar power, mitigation against sea level rise includes creating living shorelines, wildlife conservation is focused on shifting and purchasing more protected areas, the agriculture sector is switching to electric equipment and encouraging tree planting, and community gardens are a way to include more green spaces into urban areas.
Individuals have different perspectives on climate change and the sense of urgency that is needed to address this issue. One aspect that is no longer up for debate is that this disaster is human-made. We cannot wait until public servants and global leaders decide to make changes to save the planet. We are all citizens of this planet — that is not meant as a unifying statement but merely as a fact — and we have failed at creating a sustainable system. Individual actions can become collective actions as more people acknowledge the importance of advocating for our planet.
Should we ignore this climate crisis, we will be crippling future generations with the burden of much larger problems. This is a wake-up call that many of us have been ignoring. There are simple actions that the public can take to begin adapting to and mitigating against climate change. This includes encouraging people around you to learn about the climate crisis and reaching out to elected officials to ask what your city is doing to address the changing climate.