Climate Watch Joins New KQED Science Unit

Move forms California’s largest science & environmental unit for electronic media

Climate Watch Sr. Editor Craig Miller with Producer Molly Samuel in the KQED studios.

After four years, numerous awards, and something just shy of 900 blog posts, the multimedia reporting effort that’s been known as Climate Watch is turning a significant page. KQED is combining our efforts with Quest, the station’s more broadly-based science and environmental news and programming effort.

We’ll continue to cover climate-related issues, as evidenced by the recent rollout of Heat and Harvest, a major multimedia project with the combined resources of Climate Watch, Quest and the Center for Investigative Reporting. Through a documentary now airing on public television stations throughout California, radio features on The California Report and an extensive lineup of online features, Heat and Harvest examines some of the ways in which climate change is already challenging farmers in the Golden State. Continue reading

Shifting Sands: San Francisco Begins Huge Erosion-Control Project

Ocean Beach has too much sand on one end, too little on the other

Trucks are moving sand from the north end of Ocean Beach to the south end.

Portions of San Francisco’s historic Great Highway are closed for a massive sand-moving project, part of an effort to slow erosion along the stretch of Pacific coastline known as Ocean Beach. By the end of the project, trucks will have moved about 100,000 cubic yards of sand.

“It’s the equivalent of 31 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “It’s a lot of sand that we’re having to move in a short period of time and that’s why we’re closing down the lanes of the Great Highway to accommodate the truck traffic.” Continue reading

Water Wars May Reignite Over Massive Delta Plan

Battle lines are forming as Governor Brown prepares to roll out his proposal for the Delta

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta plays a crucial role in the state’s water supply.

On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are expected to announce a multi-billion dollar plan designed to fix California’s longstanding water war in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Their proposal for a 35-mile water tunnel is set to reignite the fight over how water is exported from the Delta. The announcement comes just months after federal and state wildlife agencies warned that the proposed version of the project could have dramatic impacts on Delta fish.

Political wrangling over the governor’s announcement has already begun. Continue reading

Doctors Expect Climate Change to Worsen Lung Diseases

In some parts of California air quality is already a big issue

This post originally appeared on KQED’s State of Health blog.

Farming in the Central Valley contributes to the poor air quality there.

As if there wasn’t already enough to worry about, now doctors are predicting that climate change will harm people’s respiratory health. The American Thoracic Society is so concerned it filed a report with two goals. The Society not only wants to raise awareness with doctors so they can take preventive measures with their patients but also is enticing researchers to take on the question for further study. They found that climate change has a direct impact on air quality. A hotter climate, wildfires, more pollen in the air and rates of airborne diseases are worsening respiratory health worldwide.

Climate change will likely affect different places in different ways, but in California it could mean hotter summers and more wildfires. The itchy eyes and sneeze-inducing allergies that plague many people during pollen season could also hang around longer if weather patterns continue to change. All of that is bad for asthmatics, children and the elderly, but also for poor people – as it turns out.

“It was really an eye opener for us,” said Kent Pinkerton, a professor of pediatrics at UC Davis and the lead author on the report. “We were really not aware of the implications of change in temperature on respiratory health. But it really is a global issue. It’s not just a concern for here in our country,” he added. In some parts of Africa and Turkey desertification and increased particulates in the air have already forced people to relocate, often into cramped conditions, which further heightens their risk for respiratory diseases.

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Tesla’s Model X: Sleek, Climate-Friendly and Made in California

Tesla is blazing a trail for electric vehicles, but its sky-high prices are still a barrier

Production on Tesla's Model X begins in 2013.

On February 8th, Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, unveiled the company’s latest electric car: The Model X. Probably the sleekest and sexiest SUV you’ve ever seen, and also the priciest. But what’s most remarkable — beyond the falcon wings — is that the car will be manufactured here in the Golden State, at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont.

Why did Tesla choose to locate its headquarters and manufacturing in the high-priced San Francisco Bay Area? Was it linked to the state’s ambitious clean energy targets and policies? The new rules approved last month by the California Air Resources Board require automakers to produce 1.4 million zero-emission cars for the California market by 2025, and are part of the aggressive goal of reducing the state’s emissions 80% by 2050.

Tesla spokesperson Khobi Brooklyn eschewed policy explanations and told me, “We wanted to build our cars in California, not only creating jobs in the U.S., but also California specifically.” She cited Silicon Valley as “an incredibly rich pool of talent” and said that purchasing an existing car manufacturing facility saved money and time in preparing for car production. I’ve no doubt the California sales tax rebates on capital equipment purchasing (estimated at $20 Million) helped too.

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