tv [untitled] November 10, 2010 12:30am-1:00am PST
you should be very pleased to have mary as the moderator of our first panel. mary, it's time for you to take it away. thank you. . >> thank you so much, susan, for that very generous introduction and also to the city and the public utilities commission for hosting this landmark event. it really is wonderful to see water utilities taking a leadership role in discussing this key issue and particularly to see the bredth of the program in terms of the way the issues are being addressed. i'm particularly pleased as an urban person to see for once that we're talking about water from the coast up the watershed, rather than the other way around. starting out this morning's program dealing with some of the very tough issues that face urban areas as they look not
only at water supply but at water treatment and the energy role that water plays for us as well, both bringing us power and cooling our coastal power plants. i bring you greetings, of course, from the city of los angeles and we are experiencing, as has the entire country, the warmest year recorded. last summer was the warmest summer since records were kept. i know you've all seen al gore's speech so i don't have to recapitulate all that, but i do think it's important to bring it back to the meaning for the city of los angeles and for other cities as well that when we record record high temperature, we also record record high use of our power system, which means we also have record high numbers of outages and we have record high hours of overtime being worked by our employees and we have
many other impacts that are felt greatly by the citizens and by the rate payers. our city also receives a very large quantity of water and certainly our best quality of water from pristine area in the eastern sierra known as the owens valley and that's what feeds our aqua duct. we have been seeing summer runoff over the last 70 years showing a decreasing trend during the peak flow months which means although there are ups and downs in terms of the water supply, that during the times of highest need, the water yield is at its lowest, and going down. and this finding is consistent with what we've seen from the california department of water resources for the sacramento river and the san joaquin water heads as well.
so we are certainly not alone in this regard. we are seeing of course the decline in the snow pack which others are going to talk about much more later today, but the suggestion that somehow the snow would be replaced by increasing water rainfall in southern areas has not yet emerged. and so picture really does not look great. we have our two largest and most important waste water treatment plants, the hipurian and (inaudible) they treat waste water and 11 other cities and water using agent sis throughout the la area. those plants are located approximately 20 feet above mean sea level. the projections for sea level rise in the last itcc report
ranged from about 9 to somewhere upward of 25. latest studies are indicating that the upper numbers are perhaps too conservative. so you can see the implications for the viability of those plants if we don't look at substantial modification. and again the science is increasingly telling us that when sea level rises, it doesn't just rise tiny little amounts year by year over a long period of time. it's very likely that it will be much more dramatic changes, as seen at the polar ice caps. we have a number of natural gas burning stations also on the coast. these stations provide upwards of 40 percent of the total electricity supply of the city and they are also at about 20 feet above mean sea level. these power plants can be replaced in terms of the amount of energy that they generate,
but they are essential to the operation of the grid because of their location. they keep supplies flowing through the power lines in the city. so, again, reason why we are preparing now to deal with this effect. city of los angeles port is one of the busiest in the -- it is the busiest in the united states and with la long beach harbor one of the busiest in the world. the port is in the midst of a serious re-evaluation of its infrastructure needs based on the effects of global climate change which again we can anticipate and which are going to require major infrastructure improvements. there's a bridge between areas of the port that's only a few feet above sea level. obviously that bridge will not be functional for much longer into the future. so we are in a mode of looking at prevention but we are also
looking at adaptation. because we have no choice. we have to be doing both at the same time. we also, i think, need to be looking not only at the quantity of supplies of things but also of quality when it comes to our water supply the aqua duct that supplies southern california, the state water project owned aqua duct is also vulnerable to small levels of -- small amounts of sea level rise which could breach the levies in the san francisco sacramento bay delta region. so we are intimately tied to and connected to that overall city. our plan is simply to work with everybody we can find, every partner we can find, to try to find ways to address these issues, to help with funding and to make sure that we are aware of the science to be
doing some proactive planning on our own system, and of course to be supporting legislation that will lead to the kinds of dramatic reductions in emissions which will, we hope and trust, help to avert some of the worst impacts of climate change in the future. but the fact is that climate change is not only real, it is in fact happening and so we are dealing with it right now. the three speakers that are on my panel are all people who are coping in various ways and helping to be part of the solution. i'm going to just briefly introduce all three of them in order you have their biographies in your booklets so i won't read them to you. i will simply point out if you can't read the name tags that to the left of where i'm sitting on the panel or to your right is will travis, executive director of san francisco bay conservation and development commission, well known around
him. i'm one of the people who pretend to be his boss over the years. to his left is david baumforth, senior principle with mwh, montgomery watson hargrove, a major international consulting firm. he's with their offices outside of london and they on do work for us as well. the last speaker is tom franza with san francisco puc. we will have some questions among the panelists and a little bit of discussion, but our goal is to leave a minimum of half an hour for interaction with the audience so we will try to get on with it briskly here, starting with will. . >> thanks so much, mary. first off, what i would like to
do is acknowledge somewhere out in the audience is leslie lako of our staff. leslie, can you stand up? there she is. leslie lako is the creator and manager of the project that we have at bcdc to deal with climate change and sea level rise. as usually is the case, she does all the work and so of course i get invited to speak. i want to make it clear that any errors, omissions, oversight or inappropriate comments are my responsibility. any facts, solid analysis and clear logic belong to leslie. leon canetto likes to tell the story about the learned professor and scientist who is on the rubber chicken circuit making speeches about a particular subject and the university provides a driver to him as he goes to these talks.
and the driver typically sits in the back of the room and listens and they are on their way to a presentation and the driver says, you know, professor, i've heard your presentation so many times, i think i could give it. well, the professor, always being interested in a good experiment, says, fine, let's try it. so they get to the auditorium and the driver takes off his chauffeur's hat, the professor puts it on, the professor sits in the back of the room and the driver gets up and gives a very highly articulate and persuasive speech, at the end of which some smart ass reporter, probably a science writer for the chronicle, asks a very erudite complex technical question.
the speaker looks at him and says, that's the dumbest question i have ever heard. and the answer is so simple, i'm going to ask my driver to explain it to you. so in today's play, leslie lako plays the role of the driver. i think we have to acknowledge that the members of the public are at quite different stages in their understanding of climate change and how to deal with it. and i think some of these different stages involve first those who are simply ignorant of the issue. they just don't know a thing about it. now, fortunately i know we don't have anyone here in that category. there's also a group of people who are simply unwilling to listen because al gore is the main messenger. their view, and i think there's a few of them in the bay area,
but i do know some, their view is, i didn't vote for him so he has to be wrong. i think there are others that are convinced because al gore is the messenger. those are the folks who say, i voted for him so he has to be right. and i saw his movie and it scared the crap out of me but i don't know what to do other than change my light bulbs. i think there are some that are concerned but they are skeptical. they say, we need more scientific study. we need to consider both sides of the argument. this may be a natural phenomenon. as the mayor said, maybe it's volcanos. i think you will find several members of the former majority party of the congress of the united states and some large energy company executives in this group. there are some that are concerned, but it isn't a
problem to them personally. they are the ones that say, look, i'm worried about transfats in my diet, about my kids' education, about the noise coming from my volvo's transmission, about potential earthquakes and the leak in my basement. i frankly don't have any emotional capacity to take on any more problems. by the way, since i was planning to move to a warmer climate when i retire, maybe it's not such a bad problem that it's going to get warmer in san francisco. there are those who are convinced that it's a problem but they say there's little we can do about it. what does it matter what san francisco, the bay area, california, even the united states, does if china and india keep pumping pollutants into the air? there are some that are convinced that it is a serious problem but don't know what we as individuals or the organizations or corporations
we work for can constructively do about it. i think that largely takes in where a lot of us are today. and then, finally, there are the entrepreneurs. those are the folks who realize there is either money to be made or costs to be avoided, like getting out in front of the competition on this issue. and this group we find a lot in the bay area where we have a lot of innovative businesses. i hope there's something in my comments for everybody in each of these categories today, but i think we should keep that in mind. this is san francisco bay. it's upside down, but from australia's perspective, that's just fine. it is the largest estuary on the west coast. i hope this isn't an omen of all of the slides because we're
going to all have to turn funny. it's the largest estuary on the west coast on both the north and south american continents. it's a region that's home to about 7 million people. it's beautiful, prosperous, a spectacular place. this is my beat. this is where i work. now, this is the bay back in the middle of the 19th century. the yellow area shows where the bay used to be, where the tidal wetlands were. it used to be much bigger than it is today. but siltation from hydraulic gold mining, diking to create salt ponds and duck hunting clubs, garbage dumps along the shore of the bay and frankly land fill operations to create real estate reduced the size of the bay by about a third
between 1849 and 1960. that's when the united states army corps of engineers produced this map. it was intended to show that it was economically feasible and, in fact, desirable to fill another 60 percent of the bay. that was their intention. instead, when this map was published it alarmed the public and it motivated them to take action to prevent the bay from becoming little more than a broad river. they didn't like what the corps had predicted. the science fiction writer ray bradbury says the purpose of science fiction isn't to predict the future, it's to prevent the future that's described. i don't think the corps of engineers intended this report to fall into the category of great science fikds, but that's what happened.
the present day bay looks more like this. bcdc was created to stop the uncontrolled filling of the bay and we've done that. in fact, we've reversed the shrinking of the bay. it's now 8,000 acres larger than it was 40 years ago and the conversion of salt ponds in the north and south bay to wetlands will make it another 26,000 acres larger. we are very proud of what we have accomplished. not all government agencies know what they are supposed to do. fewer even do it. we do. well, our smug self-aduration was interrupted last year in march when the california climate change center published a report titled, changing climate, assessing the risk to california. the report looked at 3 scenarios for cutting the amounts of emission that we pump into the atmosphere and depending on whether and how much green house gas emissions
can be brought under control, the report projects by the end of the century average temperatures in california will rise between 3 and 10 1/2 degrees centigrade. one of the most publicized impacts of global warming is a predicted increase in sea level. and here's a graph showing sea level rise in san francisco bay. now, i want to note one very important fact about this graph. it does not show predicted sea level rise. it shows how much the level of the bay has risen over the past century. since 1900, the bay waters have risen 7 inches. and we at bcdc have been monitoring this increase for decades and we have been especially concerned because ground elevation, particularly in the south bay, is sinking because of ground water
extraction. so even if there's no sea level rise, we expect more flooding as the low-lying areas continue to sink. therefore, over 20 years ago we published a report warning of a dangerous sea level rise in the bay area and the predictions that we made then have shown, unfortunately, to be pretty accurate. it's happening. so, for us in the bay area, reports about sea level rise don't belong in the science prediction section of the library. they belong over in the history section. it's happening here. the same california climate change report i mentioned predicts sea level increases of between 4 inches and 3 feet, 1 meter, by 2100. now, since the bay has risen 7 inches in the past century, and the amount of green house
gasses being emitted are continuing, it's hard for me to understand how we could only have a 3-inch rise in the next hundred years. but if you want to understand, ask leslie lako. she understands very clearly. if it turns out that sea level rise is closer to 3 feet over the next century, here are two maps. the one on the left shows what the bay looked like in 1849. the other one shows what it will look like in 2100. as you can see, they look pretty much the same, and that's the good news because the bay surface that was lost to diking and filling in the first century after california became a state would once again become part of the bay. the bad news is we have built all kinds of very expensive stuff that's critical to civilization in the bay area on most of that filled land. let me show you a few examples.
this is san francisco international airport. the dark blue is where the bay is now. the light blue is where it will be with a one meter rise in sea level. that's oakland international airport. clearly they should be building sea planes. that's silicon valley. now, just for fun, we mapped the san francisco public utility commission's waste water treatment commission. as you can see, a lot of it is along the shore line. so we've used some gis projections and we have had to use a two meter sea level rise because of the base maps we used, but you see a lot of that area would be inundated. even if it's only half as much, there's still a lot of expensive puc infrastructure that's going to be under water.
under the heading of sharing the pain, i want to point out that bcdc's objectives will also be hard hit by sea level rise. over the past 40 years, we have required a lot of public access along the shore line of the bay, about a hundred miles of it. and a lot more access has been provided in public parks and through the bay trail. much of this could well be lost. now, after all this talk of doom and gloom, i have to put a caveat in here. bay waters won't rise slowly like -- and evenly like water filling a bathtub. the tide comes in, the tide goes out. so what we're talking about are trends in mean sea level. i prefer to use the term climate change to global warming when we're talking about this phenomenon we're dealing with because overall
while the earth's atmosphere will be getting warmer, some places will be getting hotter, others will be getting cooler and the climate will become much more erratic. some years the bay area may go through extended droughts. other years we may get unusually heavy rainfall. and it's during these storms that we'll face the most serious problems because when rainfall runs off the hill sides into the bay and that water piles up on top of a high tide and that high tide is on top of sea level rise, and the winds push all that water across the bay, so that it acts as a dam to the additional water that's running off from the hills, that's when we'll see extensive damage and we will see it far more often. now, in addition to sea level rise, the climate change is expected to result to more
precipitation in the sierra nevada falling as rain, less as snow and an earlier snow melt and this will reduce the spring and summer runoff which will allow salinity levels and salt water to extend about 9 miles farther into the delta than it does now. now, i don't think i need to remind you that a lot of folks in the central valley and southern california get their water through the delta. and they expect that it will be fresh rather than salty. now that i've completely depressed you, let me give you the good news. even though i showed you a map of san francisco international airport under water in 2100, it won't happen. san francisco won't become the venice of the west. silicon valley won't become the
loss city of atlantis, and salt water won't come out the taps in southern california. why? because however much it costs we can't afford to let this happen. so we will build levies around the airports, we will build a seawall around the san francisco waterfront. flood control is already being incorporated into the planning for the salt pond to wetland conversion project in the south bay and we'll change the way we store and move fresh water around california. economically, we don't have any other choice. but the cost will be enormous. and where we'll get the money and what other important investments and expenditures we'll have to forego to afford this are the bigger questions. but we do have other choices. there may be some areas along the bay shore line where it's
more cost effective to remove existing development and replace it with flood-absorbing wet lands than it is to protect the low value structures. there may be areas, particularly in the delta, where it's better to halt planned development than it is to allow the development to be built and then face the cost of trying to protect it from inevitable flooding. clearly, what we have to do is figure out how much it will cost to protect everything that's vulnerable to flooding, figure out how much everything that might flood is worth, and then develop a thoughtful regional strategy that effectively deals with this issue. the choice of moving aggressively to reduce green house gasses so the sea level rise we have to deal with is at the lower end of the spectrum that the scientists tell us we
should be planning. it's too late to prevent climate change and sea level rise. they are already happening. and even if we shut down all the power plants and park all of our cars, there is so much green house gas in the atmosphere it will continue to get warmer. in many ways we're in the same position as the captain of the titanic was. what was his name? edward j. smith. at the speed he was going, by the time he saw the iceberg, it was inevitable that he would hit it, no matter what he did. but we can cushion the blow. we hope that just as the 1960 army corps of engineers map which showed how small the bay could become galvanized citizens to take action, our maps showing how much bigger it might be will bring the message
home that climate change is real, that it will affect each of us personally, and that we have to do something about it. california can be justifiablely proud of the leadership position we've taken in our efforts to reduce green house gasses. it is my humble opinion that president george w. bush would have never acknowledged climate change in his state of the union speech last week had it not been for california. if we can enlighten the president, surely china and india will listen. in a little over a year, climate change has exploded from an issue most people doubted existed, to an issue everyone wants to do something about. and i think we are now in the phase of trying to figure out
what everybody else is doing so we don't trip over each other and can figure out where we fit in solving the puzzle. this summit is a very important step in this process. i thank you for inviting me. we at bcdc look forward to continuing to work with you, both because we should and because we must. al gore got it right. he says dealing with climate change is not so much an environmental, scientific political or economic issue as it is a moral one. at some point, our children or our grandchildren will ask us, how could you have not seen what was happening and why didn't you do more to stop it? we have to be able to look them in the eyes and say truthfully, as soon as we recognized the