Environmental Leader Sees More Severe Weather Ahead

CEC chief Sigrid Wright speaks at Impact Hub Chapala Center on March 27.

The head of the top South Coast environmental group said March 27 the region should expect more dry spells, increasingly intense storms and “rain bombs” such as the one that caused the Jan. 9 Montecito mudslide. 

Sigrid Wright, executive director of the Community Environmental Council, or CEC, said 10 years ago the group began focusing on climate change. She spoke at the Impact Hub Chapala Center to a meeting of the Sustainable Change Alliance, potential investors in environmentally friendly enterprises, and their supporters.

“We can’t pin one event like the mudslide on climate change,” Wright told a crowd of about 100. “However, droughts, fires and temperatures are only going up.” Extremely hot days have been becoming more common since 1980, she said. 

“The hottest four years have been in the last four years,” Wright said. This trend poses health risks, especially for those with heart problems, she said. 

Electricity use is rising with the increasing use of air conditioning, she said. And, there is an increasing wildfire risk because the region still is in severe drought conditions. 

Microbursts, like the short storm that swept ashore last year and tore up several Santa Barbara areas including the Funk Zone, will become more common, Wright said. So-called “rain bombs,” which produce about 3/4 inch of water in hour, like the one that prompted the Jan. 9 mudslide, will become more likely. 

Wright said sea level rise will poses risks to tourism and agriculture. On top of that the possibility of earthquakes and oil spills will be “transformational.” 

“We need a commitment to science,” Wright said. She said CEC is working with UCSB’s Bren School to find ways to “reverse the carbon cycle.” Carbon from greenhouse gas emissions are blamed for climate change. 

Wright said the CEC is pushing for residents to drive less, use clean energy such as solar power, and “rethink food,” which refers to using local crops to cut the carbon emitted in transit. 

Wright noted that Santa Barbara and Goleta have pledged to use 100 percent renewable energy sources in coming years.

Two other speakers discussed wind power and innovations in battery power.

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