Conference discusses climate change’s future local effects
on September 30, 2009
A panel of scientists, environmentalists and urban organization leaders gathered Tuesday afternoon in downtown Oakland to help kick off a three-day conference on water usage and the potential perils of climate change around San Francisco Bay.
Heather Cooley, a research associate with the Water Program of the Pacific Institute, Water Program, an Oakland-based environmental advocacy nonprofit, warned at the panel that that her studies have found the sea level is rising in San Francisco Bay. High enough sea levels could cause flooding here, she said. “We failed with Katrina, and we can’t let that happen again,” Cooley said at a press conference to introduce the 9th Biennial State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference.
The conference, which continues through Thursday at the Oakland downtown Marriott and is open to the public for a fee, includes such workshops as “Living Roofs, Graywater Systems, and Rainwater Harvesting,” “Green Collar Jobs,” and “Flooded Island Ecosystems.”
The panel seemed to agree that climate changes are affecting people locally, but as a whole, the national public is not informed nor know how they may be affected. The consensus among the panel: the public is confused.
Cooley called for a reach-out to the community, urging local residents to get involved and make decisions about the area in which they live.
The panel said there are many environmental issues that specifically affect the Bay Area, but are ignored, although the long-term effects are detrimental. Many of the panelists have done extensive research, and have even compared the United States’ policies to those of other countries such as Australia, which two years ago adopted national legislation to regulate responsible water usage.
“We can’t solve global problems, but we can be more effective in how we address them,” said Will Travis, the executive of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, a state agency that regulates development in the Bay and along its shoreline.
Close to 1,800 roads and highways may be at risk for floods in the future, Cooley said, as well as hospitals and firehouses. The answer, she said: adaptation planning with community outreach.
Jakada Imani, the executive director of the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said the center is concerned that minority groups are not in discussions that affect them. Community conversations need to switch, he said. The community is able to decide whether a stop sign should be placed on a corner, he said, but what about discussions involving the placement of a sea wall to prevent floods from inland waves?
“People were left out of the going green economy, and we want to make sure they are not left out of this,” Imani said.
Margaret Davidson, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Services Center, said the combination of climate changes and natural disasters could destroy important infrastructure like hospitals, fire houses and government buildings. “We need to be more smart about where we site infrastructures, especially when extreme events happen,” she said. “It takes a village to raise a village. You can spell that anyway you want, r-a-i-s-e or r-a-z-e.”
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