As the fifth most populous county in the United States, San Diego faces myriad challenges due to the regional impacts of climate change.
If trends in temperature rise continue, in a few short decades, San Diego’s climate will be hotter and drier with wildfires increasing by as much as 20 percent, additional strains being placed on energy supplies, and much of the region’s unique biodiversity in danger of being lost.
Poor air quality and excessive heat would also negatively impact the health of San Diegans, and San Diego’s most vulnerable communities will be hit the hardest.
Blue carbon ecosystems
For 20 years, nonprofit organization WILDCOAST has helped protect some of the world’s most at-risk coastal and marine ecosystems, including here in San Diego County.
Using grant funding from The San Diego Foundation’s Climate Initiative, throughout the past year WILDCOAST conducted a county-wide assessment of the region’s wetland ecosystem carbon storage capacity.
Known as blue carbon ecosystems, these habitats include salt marshes and seagrass meadows like those found in the county’s coastal wetlands. They are not only ecological cornerstones but also serve to capture and store more atmospheric carbon per acre than terrestrial forests.
Nature-based solutions like blue carbon ecosystems make San Diego County uniquely well-equipped to build community resilient to the impacts of climate change.
As was found in The Foundation’s Parks for Everyone report, about 45 percent of the county’s total land area is identified as natural space and offers viable solutions to reducing the amount of carbon pollution in the air.
Highly productive vegetated areas like “blue carbon ecosystems” (e.g., mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass beds) offer numerous co-benefits by sequestering carbon at no cost, buffering communities from climate change impacts such as sea level rise and providing critical open spaces for San Diegans to enjoy.
Investing in climate change resilience
Investing in local research like WILDCOAST’s study of blue carbon ecosystems will help us better understand how nature-based solutions can build community resilience to climate change, and how we can meet our regional climate adaptation and mitigation goals.
In the not-so-distant future, The San Diego Foundation envisions a region that grasps the uncertainties of climate change and collaboratively creates a thriving, equitable future for current and future generations.
Tackling climate change will require an unprecedented level of cooperation and commitment from every member of our community, from public and private agencies to San Diego’s diverse communities and leaders.
Since 2006, The San Diego Foundation Climate Initiative has provided leadership and philanthropic investment to create a more sustainable path to economic growth and a higher quality of life for San Diegans. The initiative aims to advance science-based, collaborative development of local policies and programs that reduce our region’s polluting emissions and minimize local risks from climate change.