The Campaign Against Climate Action

by on August 23, 2021 · 4 comments

in Environment, San Diego

By Mat Wahlstrom

Two weeks ago today, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its sixth report since 1990, with the appropriate description that it represents a “Code red for humanity.”

Although continued sea level rise is already ‘irreversible’ for likely thousands of years, strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses (GHGs) could make air quality better and stabilize global temperatures within a few decades.

The question is how, per IPCC advice to policymakers, this can be accomplished through ‘sustainable development’ — and what exactly that means.

So it would seem to make sense that we look at all the sources of GHGs and figure out how to reduce them. And that we look at how what those who claim to be agents for climate action fits the bill for achieving this end.

The most well known focus of local climate advocates is the war on cars.

The purity of the cause of eliminating parking both in new developments and in public spaces where it already exists, while paralyzing mobility for personal vehicles by way of dedicated bus and bike lanes, to punish vehicle ownership is considered self-evident.

Yet these do nothing to increase housing equity, and increase GHG emissions by forcing drivers to idle and circle longer.

The current statistics from the EPA of GHG emissions by source puts the transportation sector at 29%. But that includes commercial trucks and buses and aircraft. Factor in the increases in fuel efficiency and the shift to electric vehicles, and it becomes harder to understand the animus against personal automobiles — or justify the permanent changes to our infrastructure.

The war on cars also proposes solutions such as ride share services such as Lyft (an official Climate Action Campaign Business Partner), even though vehicles used for them produce 50% more emissions than personal automobiles.

Besides poisoning the public discourse, the war on cars is Exhibit A in what’s wrong with pro-development masquerading as climate action: by focusing on personal responsibility to save the planet, it distracts attention from the main culprits, the corporations and business sectors that account for the lion’s share of GHG emissions.

So-called pro-growth climate activists push for density-through-demolition as the solution to global warming. Yet this ignores that 39% of carbon emissions are related to building and construction, especially the GHG emissions from concrete itself and the production of steel, copper, aluminum, and glass. And it doesn’t include the GHG emissions from demolished affordable housing and other structures dumped in landfills.

The more density is achieved by height, the worse the situation gets, with skyscrapers producing 140% more GHG emissions than five- and six-story buildings would in the same area.

And housing models used by lawmakers to justify taking the brakes off speculative development have long been subject to criticism as flawed and biased toward pre-determined targets.

So what excuse do these ‘climate activists’ use for aligning themselves with developer interests?

According to the Climate Action Campaign’s co-director of policy, and I kid you not, it’s that we need new housing not simply for local growth, but because San Diego is proposed as a sanctuary for climate refugees — and pesky concerns such as water, traffic, historic preservation, even the impacts of NAVWAR’s redevelopment, deserve nothing but scorn.

This is a ‘code red for humanity.’ And it needs real solutions, not tricked-out versions of the same cheerleading for rampant development but all electric with low-flow faucets and bike racks replacing where people already live — especially communities of color where land is least expensive.

As the environmentalist George Monbiot has said, “This perfectly represents the mistaken belief that a better form of consumerism will save the planet. The problems we face are structural: a political system captured by commercial interests, and an economic system that seeks endless growth.”

Or in the words of the IPCC, we need development that is sustainable.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

OB man August 23, 2021 at 7:13 pm

LOL, the yimby/wimby (wall street in my backyard) thing is an astroturf and widely latches on to other social movements and issues, all in service of real estate and private property of capitalism. Whether you like those things or not, that is the reality. Green eco, enviro, equity, affordable etc etc etc they try to leverage falsely. The only logical issue of real environmental concerns is Zero Growth, not upzoning and building more, as is patently obvious. But many unpopular unreal causes seek to go from the top down and latch not unrelated issues, with obscurantism. Yimby is one of them sad in many ways how nice progressive people get misled and waylaid to advance the goals of real estate interests, rather fascinating./


Mat Wahlstrom August 23, 2021 at 8:00 pm

Glad to see others who see what I see, OB man.

I would add that, given the abundance around us already, there are ways to achieve
‘Regrowth’ to address our problems. For example, by repurposing shopping malls and historic properties that have existing infrastructure for truly affordable housing and local commercial spaces with minimal impact.

Of course, this “doesn’t pencil” in the models of the vulture capitalists. But communities need to find ways to make it happen — and stop letting them and their Logan’s Run compradors grab the baton.


Paul September 3, 2021 at 3:22 pm

Pushing new housing out to the exurbs – which Mat’s method here has been doing for decades – results in a much larger contribution to GHGs than infill construction. And since when do you support five and six story buildings? You demand a 30 foot height limit in Mission Hills and oppose every multi-family project in Uptown.

Requiring everyone to drive because every other mode is dangerous or underfunded is indeed helping to kill the planet. Corporations deserve plenty of blame, but you should accept personal responsibility for the local and global harm your anti-housing, anti-bike agenda inflicts, Mat.

I support new housing of all types, including your vague “finding ways to make it happen”, but when did you ever find ways to make it happen during your time of opposing new housing at Uptown Planners? We can see through these vague smokescreen statements that result in no action – I read them every day from NIMBYs.

Given that San Diego voters rejected a limited affordable housing bond in 2020, are we supposed to wait another four years for it to be rejected again, because “greedy developers”?


Mat Wahlstrom September 3, 2021 at 7:30 pm

Let’s see: A diarrhea of consciousness ending with a variation on the demand to answer, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

Must be a Paul Jamason post.


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