Residents of San Diego, and humans in general, play a role in climate change primarily through the use of electricity and gas fueled vehicles. Carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gasses are created by the burning of natural gas and coal to make electricity. Gas-powered vehicles also emit carbon dioxide. Once in the atmosphere. these gasses act like a blanket that keeps heat close to the Earth’s surface. Since it cannot escape, the air continues to get warmer. Over time, this causes an increase in global temperature. With increased temperatures comes a larger number of heatwaves and increased humidity. Air cannot cool at night due to the humidity, contributing to the increase in temperatures during the day. This causes people to use more electricity to stay cool which begins the warming cycle again (Climate Education Partners, n.d.). The diagram below illustrates this cycle.
This increase in global temperature has many detrimental effects. The amount of water available for human consumption will decrease as mountain snow cover decreases. All municipal infrastructure is at risk for damage due to wind and water. More severe storms could damage power lines and transformers resulting in a disruption of power grids. Sewer systems will be overwhelmed. People will experience an increase in heat-related health problems. Eventually the increased heat will begin melting the polar ice caps and world glaciers. This will cause a catastrophic rise in sea level across the globe (Braile, 2000).
Impact on Health of Population
Global sea levels are projected to rise approximately one meter by 2100. Coastal cities will be most affected by this. Habitat loss and change along the coast, loss of beaches, temporary or cyclical flooding in areas previously dry, and permanent inundation of city infrastructure (Jensen 2011). As sea level rises, people in flooded areas will be forced to move.
Cities with the highest amount of dry land loss and highest population density will be most affected due to scarcity of alternative living space. They will have a higher number of displaced and also less places for them to move to. Cities in developing countries are particularly at risk due to rapid population growth, poverty, and vulnerable geography. Many of them are prone to tropical storms and land subsidence (“10 Coastal,” 2013; Associated Press, 2013).
In developed countries, coastal defenses reduce the impact of flooding. The unintended consequence has been that people are attracted to these areas and they build. If the defenses fail, a higher population is more at risk than if fewer defenses were available (“10 Coastal,” 2013).
- Associated Press (AP). (2013, June 18). Global warming threatens coastal cities. Inquirer.net. Retrieved from http://globalnation.inquirer.net/77841/global-warming-threatens-coastal- cities
- Braile, R. (2000, March 10). EPA funds study of global warming effects on coastal cities. Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/031000-01.htm
- Climate Education Partners (a). (n.d.) Heat waves and energy use in San Diego. Retrieved from http://www.sandiego.edu/climate/stay_up_to_date/resources.php
- Jensen, M. (2011, February 14). Rising seas will affect major US coastal cities by 2100. Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-02/uoa-rsw021411.php
- Gersberg, R. (2009, May 26). Application of SLAMM 5.1 to San Diego County, CA. Retrieved from http/www.slammreport.pdf
- Netherlands and UK – sea level rise map. (n.d.). Geology.com. Retrieved from http://geology.com/sea-level-rise/netherlands.shtml
- San Diego Coastkeeper. (2010). Sea level rise in San Diego. Retrieved from http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org/learn/swimmable/sea-level-rise-in-san-diego.html
- 10 Coastal cities at greatest flood risk as sea levels rise. (2013, September 3). Environment News Service. Retrieved from http://ens-newswire.com/2013/09/03/10-coastal-cities-at-greatest-flood-risk-as-sea-levels-rise/
- Climate Education Partners (b). (n.d.) Water in San Diego. Retrieved from http://www.sandiego.edu/climate/stay_up_to_date/resources.php