Climate and Pollution

Global climate change is an environmental issue of considerable urgency, and one the Air Pollution Control District takes seriously. While climate scientists agree on the evidence, details and model-based predictions continue to evolve. Here in San Diego, leading scientists have prepared analyses outlining climate impacts that are already occurring – such as record temperatures, drought, and wildfires – and are expected to worsen. Governments at all levels are responding with regulations and voluntary commitments to address the impacts and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change Science & Impacts In San Diego

According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” A September 2013 Report stated it is “extremely likely that humans have been the dominant cause of unprecedented global warming since 1950.” The evidence for rapid climate change includes sea level rise, global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking polar ice sheets, declining Arctic sea ice, glacial retreat, extreme weather events, shifting local habitats and agricultural impacts, and ocean acidification. Federal resources explaining these impacts include:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) database of the applicable evidence
The US Environmental Protections Agency’s (EPA) Climate Change research website and Air Quality and Climate research page
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whose role is to understand and predict global changes, share these findings with citizens, and conserve and manage marine ecosystems and resources. Other NOAA resources include NOAA and annual reports prepared for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) called State of the Climate. NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) tracks and evaluates climate events in the US and globally that have great economic and societal impacts, including so-called billion-dollar events.

Climate Impacts in San Diego County
In 2008, the San Diego Foundation commissioned a series of studies of climate projections from local institutions and universities, and concluded that by 2050, if present trends continue:

Sea level will be 12-18 inches higher.
San Diego’s climate will be hotter and drier.
We will face a severe water shortage.
Wildfires will be more frequent and intense.
We will not be able to meet our energy needs.
Native plant and animal species will be lost forever.
Public health will be at risk, especially among our elderly and children.
In a summary report, San Diego’s Changing Climate: A Regional Wake-Up Call (discussed further below), the Foundation outlined steps governments, businesses, and individuals can take now to reduce these impacts. A 2014 update to this report, entitled 2050 Is Calling, notes that 84% of San Diegans believe climate change is occurring and almost as many expect the impacts to affect them, their families and future generations.

SDAPCD Climate Regulations and Activities

GHG Tailoring Rule: Title V Operating Permits
In May 2010, the US EPA issued a rule addressing GHG emissions from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. This so-called “Tailoring Rule” set thresholds for GHG emissions that define when permits under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Operating Permit programs are required for industrial facilities. The rule “tailors” requirements of these Clean Air Act permitting programs to focus on those facilities responsible for nearly 70 percent of the national GHG emissions from stationary sources. This includes the nation’s largest GHG emitters, such as power plants and cement production facilities. SDAPCD administers the rule primarily through the Title V rule (Rule 1401) and PSD rule (Rule 20.3).

NOTE: On June 23, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Tailoring Rule. The District will revise its rules as necessary once the US EPA decides how it will use its remaining authority to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Landfill Regulation
In September 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and SDAPCD to implement and enforce the Regulation to Reduce Methane Emissions from Municipal Solid Waste Landfills. Recognizing that a landfill is a unique stationary source under AB32 (see below), the MOU is intended to provide for coordination between the two agencies and builds upon extensive implementation and enforcement experience with municipal solid waste landfills.

SDAPCD Participation in Regional GHG Initiatives

Climate Initiative Vision Action Team: SDAPCD has participated on the Climate Initiative Vision Action Team, which is part of the Climate Initiative of the San Diego Foundation. This team works to catalyze comprehensive local action on climate change in the San Diego region.

SANDAG's Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS): Through several committees and processes, SDAPCD participates in the development of SANDAG’s Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), discussed below.

Local Climate Action Plans and Projects: As resources allow, SDAPCD provides expertise and input to local governments developing Climate Action Plans. Examples include the County of San Diego and the City of San Diego Climate Action Plans (CAP). Through the Indirect Source Program, SDAPCD also assists local governments working to improve conditions for bicycling, walking, and transit use.

Climate Initiatives at the National, State, Regional, and Local Levels

Federal Initiatives

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA is engaged in a number of climate-related efforts, including developing standards for greenhouse gas emissions from mobile and stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. Key milestones or regulatory actions include:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 GHG Endangerment finding authorizing EPA climate actions
Fuel economy standards for new motor vehicles developed by EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Renewable fuel standard program
GHG reporting requirements for large stationary sources

President's Climate Action Plan: In June 2013, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for the impacts of Climate Change, and lead international efforts to address Global Climate Change. There are three main goals addressed in a fact sheet released by the Administration, which provides further details on three action areas: (1) cutting carbon pollution, (2) preparing the U.S. for climate change impacts, and (3) leading international efforts to address global climate change.

U.S. Global Change Research Program: The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is a confederation of the research functions of 13 Federal agencies, including the EPA, NASA, and the Department of Energy. These agencies carry out research and maintain capabilities to respond to global changes, including climate change. The USGCRP maintains a Resource Library to provide access to data and information on climate change research, adaptation/mitigation strategies and technologies, and educational resources. The USBCRP periodically produces the National Climate Assessment, an exhaustive report ordered by Congress.

State of California Initiatives


Assembly Bill 32 - Global Warming Solutions Act: In 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB32 which established a 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goal in state law, specifically to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This bill directs ARB to develop early actions to reduce greenhouse gases and also to prepare and regularly update a “scoping plan” to identify how best to reach the 2020 limit. Implemented measures include the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, Advanced Clean Car standards, and the industrial Cap-and-Trade Program. The latter program is a market based regulation that sets a limit or “cap” on GHGs that declines by approximately 3 percent each year beginning in 2013. Trading of GHG reduction credits creates incentives to reduce GHGs below allowable levels through investments in clean technologies and establishes a price on carbon. Market forces spur technological innovation and investments in clean energy.

Senate Bill 375 - Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act: In 2008, this legislation was passed to enhance California’s ability to reach its AB32 goals by promoting land use development that is less reliant on personal vehicles for transportation. SB375 required ARB to develop regional greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for passenger vehicles, specifically for years 2020 and 2035. Targets were adopted separately for each region covered by the State’s 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). The San Diego region’s MPO, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is responsible for adopting a Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Community Strategy meeting the ARB targets for the region (see below).

Executive Orders

Executive Order S-3-05: Signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in June 2005, Executive Order S-3-05 states:

“That the following greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are hereby established for California: by 2010, reduce GHG emissions to 2000 levels; by 2020, reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels; by 2050, reduce GHG emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels.”

The 2050 target has been interpreted by a Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Diego to apply to the San Diego Association of Governments’ Regional Transportation Plan.

Executive Order S-13-08: Signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in November 2008, Executive Order S-13-08 directs state agencies, such as Caltrans, to plan long-term for a changing climate through adaptation and resiliency. Among other things, the executive order required the Climate Action Team of the California Resources Agency to work with “local, regional, state and federal public and private entities to develop a state Climate Adaptation Strategy.” The adopted Strategy includes the impacts, risks and strategies for the following seven sectors affected by climate change: Public Health, Biodiversity and Habitat, Ocean and Coastal Resources, Water Management, Agriculture, Forestry, Transportation and Energy Infrastructure.


Regional Initiatives

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG): As part of its regular preparation of the Regional Transportation Plan, SANDAG is required to prepare a “Sustainable Communities Strategy” (SCS) to demonstrate how the region will meet SB375 greenhouse gas reduction targets through integrated land use, housing, and transportation planning. Other SANDAG efforts include:

Regional Energy and Climate Change Program: This SANDAG program “works to find ways for the region to use energy more efficiently, expand choices in transportation fuels and electricity supply, and reduce GHGs attributed to our mobility.” The agency’s current energy and climate change projects include Regional Alternative Fuel Planning, an Energy Roadmap Program for Local Governments, Implementing Energy and Climate Strategies, Airport Vehicle Rebate Program, and Plug-in Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Planning.

SANDAG Climate Action Strategy: Created in March 2010, this document serves as a guide to help policymakers address climate change as they make planning decisions. The Strategy identifies “tools in the toolbox” of potential policy measures applicable to the regional, local, and neighborhood level.


The San Diego Foundation: The San Diego Foundation’s mission is to “improve the quality of life in all our communities by providing leadership for effective philanthropy that builds enduring assets and by promoting community solutions through research, convenings and actions that advance the common good.” This includes a number of climate-related initiatives and major reports:

San Diego Center for Civic Engagement: Via the Climate Initiative, the Center for Civic Engagement works to educate and support all San Diego region communities in implementing action plans to address climate change through research, strategic investments, and collaborations with community leaders and policymakers. The intended result will yield cleaner air, water, and a healthier region overall.

Climate Action Planning Progress in the San Diego Region (rev 01/2013): This report is an assessment of local climate action planning in the San Diego region. It measures progress of local governments to plan for climate change, both to reduce GHG and prepare for the local impacts of climate change, by comparing action to accepted milestones of climate action planning.

San Diego's Changing Climate - A Regional Wake-Up Call: The San Diego Foundation’s Regional Focus 2050 Study explores what the San Diego region will be like in the year 2050 if current trends continue. The range of impacts presented in the Focus 2050 Study are based on projections of climate change on the San Diego region using three climate models and two emissions scenarios drawn from those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

San Diego Climate Collaborative: Launched in 2012, the Climate Collaborative is a regional forum for public agencies to share expertise, leverage resources, and partner with private institutions to facilitate climate action planning and projects. The SDF is a member and convener of this collaborative.

Climate Education Partners (CEP): The CEP is a collaboration of educators, scientists, researchers, communications professionals, and community leaders. In 2012, CEP was one of six projects nationally to be awarded funding from the National Science Foundation. The project will implement a five-year education process to increase understanding of climate change in the San Diego region. The SDF is one of six organizations in CEP, which is led by the University of San Diego. Recent research findings and reports include 2011 and 2012 Public Opinion and Knowledge Survey Results, and the 2013 Focus Groups with San Diego Regional Leaders Report.

Other Regional Agencies: Climate Action Plans, adaptation plans, or greenhouse gas emission reduction projects have been adopted or implemented by several regional agencies, including the Port of San Diego, San Diego Water Authority, San Diego Regional Airport Authority, and the Tijuana Estuary National Estuarine Research Reserve.


Local Initiatives

Local Governments: Every local government in the San Diego region has completed a greenhouse gas emission inventory, and many have taken significant steps to plan or implement reductions. The San Diego Foundation’s Climate Initiative tracks progress at the local level. Several jurisdictions have benefitted from funding through San Diego Gas & Electric’s Local Government Partnership program, as well as grants from the San Diego Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.