Axios San Diego

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Good Thursday to ya.

  • Today's weather: Coast — Mostly sunny with highs near 60. Inland — Sunny with highs in the mid-60s.

Editor's note: Axios published "Gender dysphoria diagnoses rise in California" in the Jan. 22 newsletter. After publication, the source behind the story, Definitive Healthcare, retracted its report and removed the link to the findings. As a result, Axios no longer has confidence in the report. Read more.

Today's newsletter is 876 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Climate change reversing gains in air quality: study

Estimated days with unhealthy air quality, 2024
Data: First Street Foundation; Note: Maximum count of days with unhealthy air quality from anywhere within each county; Map: Axios Visuals

After decades of progress toward cleaner air, California will see steady deterioration through 2054, as climate change-related events are reversing those gains, per a new report.

Why it matters: An increase in large wildfires in the West, along with heat waves and drought, already are yielding a growing "climate penalty" to air quality, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

  • California is projected to see some of the worst air-quality impacts, chiefly from wildfire smoke.

What they found: New research from the nonprofit First Street Foundation is part of a hyperlocal air-quality model showing shifts down to the property level between 2024 and 2054.

  • It suggests that climate change is increasing the prevalence of two air pollutants most harmful to human health: particulate matter (PM2.5) and tropospheric ozone.
  • PM2.5 are tiny particles emitted by vehicles, power plants, wildfires and other sources. They can lodge in people's lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing or exacerbating numerous health problems.
  • The West will be particularly hard hit by increasing PM2.5 emissions, as wildfires become more frequent and severe.

Zoom in: The study predicts hundreds of thousands of San Diego County residents will have 14 days with unhealthy air quality this year.

  • "Unhealthy" means an average air quality index of 100 or higher, which ranges from "unhealthy for sensitive groups" to "hazardous."

Zoom out: In California, the number of "good" and "moderate" days (green and yellow on the air-quality index) decreased, with significant upticks in more harmful days from 2000 to 2021.

  • California's number of days with hazardous air quality (maroon — the most concerning category) has increased by more than 1,100% since 2000.

Be smart: Check the local air-quality forecast here.

Go deeper

2. Keeling Curve hits all-time high

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Mauna Loa Observatory. Photo: Susan Cobb/NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory

A long-running record of carbon in the atmosphere maintained by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego hit its all-time high this weekend.

State of play: The Keeling Curve — a graph of global, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration readings from the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa — registered a record carbon concentration of 426.5 parts per million.

Zoom in: Ralph Keeling, the program's director, said he hasn't recorded many one-day jumps of that size, and it occurred after a strong wind shift.

  • The extra CO2 in the atmosphere would have reached the observatory eventually, but the weather accelerated that, per Keeling.
  • "It's like hitting the fast-forward button," he said.

Why it matters: This was the first reading in the Keeling Curve's modern record that exceeded 425 parts per million. The curve first broke 400 parts per million in 2013.

Yes, but: Daily recordings are more volatile than monthly averages.

What's next: Keeling said he expects the monthly average in May to peak above 425 parts per million.

  • "With an El Niño event, we expect CO2 to rise a little faster because it is associated with drought in some areas of the tropics, which causes ecosystems that would be absorbing or taking up CO2 to release CO2," he says.

Read more

3. The Lineup: Local news roundup

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🚆 State Sen. Catherine Blakespear (D-San Diego) has introduced legislation that would direct state officials to create a prioritization list of fixes along the rail corridor from San Diego to San Luis Obispo in hopes of preventing disruptions that have plagued service in recent years. (Union-Tribune)

⚡ Power San Diego is collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would replace San Diego Gas & Electric with a municipal utility. SDG&E has spent $300,000 opposing the initiative. (KPBS)

😋 Locals can vote this week on their favorite eateries for the Reader's Choice selections in "San Diego Magazine's" annual best restaurants list. (San Diego Magazine)

4. City, enviros settle lawsuit over SD climate plan

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Environmental activists who sued the city of San Diego in 2022, arguing its climate action plan lacked funding and a timeline for meeting its goals, have agreed to a settlement.

Why it matters: San Diego committed to reducing 40% of its emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2035 but has struggled to make progress on the goals it set to get there.

By the numbers: One of those goals is the city's pledge to get 50% of commuters biking, walking or taking transit to work by 2035.

The latest: The City Council agreed to a settlement Tuesday with nonprofits the Climate Action Campaign and the Coastal Environmental.

  • The agreement calls for the city to release additional emissions data to track progress against the plan's benchmarks, and would require officials to consider amending the blueprint if the city is off track.
  • The city also will pay $120,000 to cover the groups' legal fees, while the group will dismiss their lawsuit.

What the mayor's saying

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5. Here in San Diego

The Grantville Trolley Station. Photo: Kate Murphy/Axios

👏 Congrats to Mary I. for recognizing the Grantville Trolley Station.

The intrigue: The station is on the Green Line, one stop from SDSU's campus, making it a convenient spot for new student apartments.

Our picks:

🏀 Andy still can't believe SDSU outscored Colorado State by 41-11 in the second half Tuesday.

📖 Kate is finally reading Fourth Wing and can't put it down.

This newsletter was edited by Carly Mallenbaum and copy edited by James Gilzow.