By Toni Atkins | Speaker of the Assembly
From Dec. 5 through Dec. 11, Paris, France hosted the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP 21.
Nearly 50,000 heads of state, climate leaders, policy experts, and others from all over the world attended COP 21. The last time a major international climate conference was held was in 2009 in Copenhagen, but it did not result in a major climate agreement.
The purpose of this conference was to reach a new, legally binding international agreement limiting the rise of greenhouse-gas emissions. Specifically, the conference called for all countries to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. If global warming exceeds 2 degrees Celsius, we can expect more climate extremes, such as severe drought (something Californians know all too well) and intense temperatures globally.
It’s important that all nations decrease their climate footprint, use more renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gases. Climate change is one of the greatest dangers the world faces, so that’s why it was so critical that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were leading the U.S. contingent, to show the world that we are committed to reducing our climate impact.
Most heads of state at the conference are national leaders, but because of California’s vanguard position on climate — which sets strong renewable-energy goals — our delegation was invited to attend. Governor Jerry Brown, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and I led the California delegation to COP 21.
While many of the international participants were working on the global-warming agreement, one of my priorities was getting a better understanding of climate change at the local level, particularly its impact on San Diego’s military bases.
Climate change increases global instability — leading to more hunger, poverty, and conflict — and creates more severe weather events that threaten military installations, affect training exercises, strain equipment, and endanger supply lines.
But one of the biggest threats to the military is sea-level rise.
The Scripps Institute of Oceanography has found that during the next 35 years, San Diego will be prone to major flooding and massive storms. If we don’t act quickly, sea level in our region could be 5 to 24 inches higher by 2050. Implementing effective climate-change policies at the state and local levels is a vital part of the equation. I am proud to have been invited to help represent California, and our national security concerns was among my areas of focus.
We’ve all seen post-apocalyptic films with themes about how our lack of action ruins the environment and imperils our future. We all must come together, from international leaders to local farmers, in order to keep those dystopian stories where they belong: Hollywood.
As we move forward in addressing climate change, I hope San Diegans will be an important part of shaping what we do and underscoring the urgency of how soon we need to do it.
Supporting Becky’s House. The holidays are a festive time, but for anyone who is suffering or struggling to make ends meet, they can be a serious and painful challenge.
That’s why I was happy to join Assembly members Shirley Weber and Lorena Gonzalez on Dec. 16 to host our Holiday Gift-raiser to benefit Becky’s House, a housing program for survivors of domestic violence, and Bridges Teen Recovery, a part of Vista Hill Recovery that aids at-risk youth.
Each year, we choose worthy charities and invite friends, constituents and supporters to bring in gifts that will be delivered to our partner for the holidays. Past gift-raiser beneficiaries include Operation Homefront and Promises2Kids.
Becky’s House offers one year of transitional housing to help those who have suffered domestic abuse get back on their feet. The YWCA supports the program, which includes life skills training.
Bridges Teen Recovery offers drug and alcohol screening, anger management classes and other intervention programs for young people who are experiencing addiction or mental health issues.
For those wishing to give a gift to Becky’s House or Bridges, here is a wish list:
* New comforters, blankets and bed linens (twin only); bath towels; pots and pans, silverware and kitchen utensils; blenders, fans, vacuum cleaners and clocks; double and single baby strollers; new children’s toys, and unused coloring books and developmental/learning toys.
* Popular items for girls include those with a “Frozen” theme, Barbies and art supplies. Boys favor balls, Marvel action figures and Legos.
* Diapers and wipes; general personal care products and toiletries (hair products, body soap, razors, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, and other items); gift cards; and tickets to movies, sporting events and theme parks.
We would be thrilled if you supported Becky’s House and Bridges Teen Recover, even though the gift-raiser is over.
A friend to check in. YANA stands for You Are Not Alone — a great message for those who find themselves without friends or family to check on them.
The YANA program, offered by San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency, gives residents the opportunity to sign up to have a senior volunteer check in on them, free of charge.
Residents qualify if they live alone and are seniors or disabled. They may be able to take care of themselves day-to-day, but want the security of knowing someone is available to help should there be an emergency.
To sign up, call your local neighborhood police division or San Diego County Sheriff station and ask for the senior volunteer office. Here are contacts in my district:
San Diego Police Central division, 619-744-9500; Mid-City, 619-516-3000; Northern, 858-552-1700, and Western, 619-692-4800. San Diego County Sheriff: Imperial Beach, 619-518-8885, and North Coastal Station, 619-993-2859. The County RSVP office also can help, at 858-505-6399.
—Toni G. Atkins is the Speaker of the California State Assembly. For more information, visit her website, asmdc.org/speaker or follow her on Twitter, @toniatkins.