Opinion: San Diego must consider these options to control its carbon footprint

Re “San Diego leaders vow to get tough on climate after years of delays and lawsuits” (July 17): Tree planting, leading this list of carbon reduction measures, is vital to combating climate change. But the city’s tree planting program is failing.

Tree planting is an obvious, inexpensive way to mitigate excessive carbon and heat. Yet San Diego’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU) legislation directly contradicts its Climate Action Plan, significantly reducing the tree canopy; building to the property line, paving yards for parking, easily removes any vestige of green.

Here’s a prime opportunity to mandate trees rather than destroy the urban canopy. If climate action programs include ordinances requiring newly built homes to use electricity for cooking and heating as mentioned, how much cheaper and easier it would be to mandate all new housing include at least one tree on the property, better one tree per unit? This critical addition to the ADU ordinance would do much to combat climate change and nothing to reduce the amount of added housing provided.

Ann Cottrell
College Area

Thank you for the incisive reporting on our city’s struggles to get off carbon. The climate emergency demands much bigger, bolder measures than we have seen to date. One such measure: a nationwide price on carbon with all proceeds returned to U.S. households to buffer the impact of higher fuel prices. Economically disadvantaged households actually come out financially ahead under this plan.

A bill to enact this carbon price, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, is in Congress and deserves our support.

Jeff Severinghaus
Solana Beach

We must electrify our buildings.

Extensive heat waves are everywhere, California and Oregon are battling forest fires, and it is not even fire season yet. Germany is experiencing extreme flooding. These severe weather patterns make it clear that we must address climate change immediately. Scientists say we must stop burning fossil fuels and instead turn to renewables like solar and wind for electricity.

Throughout California, 44 cities have enacted ordinances to partially or fully restrict the use of natural gas in new buildings. Recently, SanDiego350 gathered a group of 24 organizations into the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition. Coalition volunteers have met with elected officials in several cities, and in the county, to advocate for all-electric ordinances for new buildings. Encinitas is now poised to be the first city in San Diego County to enact a strong ordinance. Let’s hope other cities in our region follow suit.

Ann Feeney
Del Mar

Thank you for your comprehensive article on climate action. It’s especially appropriate because we have recognized, and declared, a climate emergency. Now we need to take action.

As an Encinitas environmental commissioner, I initiated the move to community choice energy and to building electrification. The intention was not to leave other cities “in the dust,” but to show what we can, and should, do.

We all share the Earth’s climate, so we’re all in this together.

Fires and floods don’t care about politics, or borders, or profits. And when it comes to the saving the climate, neither should we.

James Wang

Regarding three letters on July 22: Bikes can very effective transportation. It’s been done in Portland, Oregon, and Amsterdam. It won’t happen fast and there will be resistance. Nobody likes change.

Carbon fees are a good idea. They can be implemented now: this is capitalism, money’s running the show – changes come when things prove to be good ways to make it or lose it.

Idling cars get zero miles to the gallon — not what you want no matter what you drive. The border crossing’s a nightmare – drive-throughs (fast food, banks) certainly should be abandoned. It’s a rare day on a stroll through my neighborhood, when I don’t see someone sitting in an idling car (no matter the weather) reading their phone. A lack of awareness is in evidence.

How about lowering highway speed limits? Effective in ‘70s. Or obeying the limits in place now. PSAs might help.

Paul Sundfor
Normal Heights

It’s high time San Diego slashed carbon emissions. Some leaders mentioned the need for more data before acting. I write to agree and disagree, having in mind Voltaire’s aphorism: “perfect is the enemy of good.”

We already know the absolute best thing San Diego can do for climate is build more housing that is affordable in its urban core and prevent sprawl to suburbs and exerbs, where per-capita carbon footprints and effects are vastly higher. This comes straight from the State’s leading academic, industry, and government consortium ( – which shows the effects of individual local policies on GHG reductions in individual cities and counties. Strong urban vitalization also aligns with improving equity, conserving wildlands, and reducing wildfires.

Perfect data may yield refinements, but we know plenty to turn the rudders hard to avoid the disaster of 1.5C. Let’s not let perfect be the enemy of good.

John Gartman
Del Mar