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MicroClimates: Fighting global warming from home – San Francisco Chronicle

Welcome to MicroClimates, The Chronicle’s climate change newsletter. If someone forwarded you this email, you can sign up here.

A missed Earth Day

Weeks ago, as the pandemic dragged on and protests against police violence ramped up across the region, I spoke to several Bay Area residents involved in different kinds of climate change activism. How had the pandemic affected their efforts — and how did they see multiple crises interacting with each other?

The short version: Everyone’s frustrated, especially when it comes to planned rallies and in-person education. But there’s no other choice except to adapt to virtual efforts amid a world that changed faster than even they expected.

“Some of our more disruptive actions, sit-ins, marches — they’re most visual, they make the most political change — those aren’t as safe right now,” one young activist told me. “It requires significantly more work (to think through): What are pandemic protesting tactics?”

Read more here.

Can we ‘see’ the pollution impact of shutdown?

Bay Area carbon dioxide levels by county before and after the shutdown.

The Bay Area saw sudden steep declines in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the first weeks of the coronavirus shutdown — but did they stick?

New preliminary data from San Francisco company Aclima show air pollutants getting closer to normal levels several months into the pandemic — and big differences in which parts of the Bay Area saw air quality improve and carbon dioxide concentrations decline.

There are also very cool comparison maps showing levels of carbon dioxide change on a street-by-street basis across the first six months of the year and a short explanation on why carbon dioxide is a “tricky pollutant to understand.”

Rising bay

Before MicroClimates launched, we asked readers how the pandemic had (or hadn’t!) affected your thinking on climate change.

For those for whom it had made a difference, there was a split in how: The experience of living through a global pandemic had made some feel more pessimistic about our ability to act on climate change and others more optimistic. The changes in daily life also made an impact: One reader noted that being outside of a heavily air-conditioned office had shifted how aware they were of extreme heat.

Here’s a few of your comments:

“If the pandemic is any indication of problems humanity face, imagine the problems with a heating world and more migrants coming to the US to escape the heat, the lack of rain. If we are this divided about basic things about wearing a mask, imagine the problems we are about to face regarding water.” Gina Grandini.

“It has made me see that we can act quickly in the face of an existential threat.”Marina Psaros, co-author of the upcoming “The Atlas of Disappearing Places: Our Coasts and Oceans in the Climate Crisis.”

For next time: On top of everything else, we have an election coming up: Do you consider yourself a climate voter? I’d like to hear from some Bay Area voters who are going into this election considering global warming as one of their top issues, potentially for inclusion here in MicroClimates and also to inform our upcoming coverage of local elections.

How to contact us? Share your tips at this Assignment Editor survey, or email us at climate@ sfchronicle.com.

Climate Chronicles

• How did climate-related bills do in the California Legislature this year? Housing bills and tough plastic rules ran out of time. Meanwhile the Legislature approved a bill to speed approvals for public transit and other sustainable transportation projects during the pandemic.

Masked workers pull tarps up from raspberry fields at the foot of a burned mountain in Salinas in August.

Fires in Steinbeck country: Reporter J.D. Morris reports from Monterey County to understand how the impact of three recent major fires in the county intersects with the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

More bad news for transit: S.F. Muni light rail expected to stay closed through 2020 after equipment failures, Mallory Moench reports.

• At a time when meatless restaurants are becoming increasingly common in the Bay Area, Lion Dance Cafe is gaining serious buzz before its opening, Janelle Bitker writes. So what’s on the menu?

• Sustained hot weather and warm water had led to the worst outbreak of avian botulism in 40 years at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge, killing more than 40,000 waterfowl and shorebirds, biologists say. Outdoors writer Tom Stienstra outlines the issue and shares how a “duck hospital” saved 2,000 birds.

West Coast wildfires, Gulf Coast hurricanes: How climate change connects these extreme events.

Changing California

• There are multiple reasons why Joe Biden chose California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate. One of them is her record on climate and her history of cases against oil and gas companies as California attorney general (Inside Climate News).

• As hundreds of electric mopeds arrive on S.F.’s streets, lower-income neighborhoods are left out (Hoodline).

• Bike to Work Day becomes … Bike to Wherever Day.

• University of California system to phase out single-use plastics (San Diego Tribune).

• Moving goods from ship to truck to warehouse accounts for nearly a third of California’s economy, but about half of its air pollution. A pair of rules adopted by the state Air Resources Board seeks to cut thousands of tons of this kind of pollution in nearby communities CalMatters’ Rachel Becker writes.

• Four fossil fuel power plants along the Southern California coast were scheduled to be shut down at the end of this year, but state regulators have given them a few more years after this summer’s rolling blackouts, the L.A. Times’ Sammy Roth reports.

• Your Palo Alto utility payment funds this gas lobbyist, writes Palo Alto Online’s Sherry Listgarten.

MicroClimates is The Chronicle’s climate change newsletter, written by Taylor Kate Brown, and sent every other week on Tuesday. Email newsletters@sfchronicle.com or taylor.brown@sfchronicle.com.

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