Monday, September 19, 2016

California's Climate Leadership and the Losers who Strive to Undermine these Gains

California is a shinning example of the way forward. This state's bold climate actions are meant to help us extricate ourselves from the world we have created. Rather than herald this great state's accomplishments, the oil industry is using their ill-begotten wealth to sow doubt and they are sicking their conservative attack drones in the state legislature to undermine California's green economy. They are trying to tear asunder the fabric of state's world-leading low carbon efforts. They do not seem to notice that the California is being disproportionately impacted by climate change and they seem oblivious to the state's four year long drought. Nor do they appear to be moved by the recent fossil fuel leaks including the large oil spill in Santa Barbara in May 2015 and the massive Porter Ranch methane leak towards the end of last year.


California is leading  US states in terms of their renewable portfolio standards in the nation, requiring 25 percent of electricity to come from renewables by 2016, and 33 percent by 2020. In August California, the world's sixth largest economy set some of the most ambitious carbon reduction targets in the world. The new law would see the state's emissions slashed by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.

The law had widespread support including from businesses and investors. After the vote, the state's governor Jerry Brown lashed out at resistance from big oil and their minions in the Republican party. (it should be noted that there was one lone Republican, Assemblywoman Catherine Baker who voted for the emissions reductions).

“Yesterday, big oil bought a full-page ad in the capital city’s newspaper of record to halt action on climate,” said Brown. “Today, the assembly speaker, most Democrats and one brave Republican passed SB 32, rejecting the brazen deception of the oil lobby and their Trump-inspired allies who deny science and fight every reasonable effort to curb global warming.”

The self-serving bastards in the the oil industry and Republicans rallied against the law saying that it will kill jobs and harm the economy. Economists say it will keep growing the economy, encourage investments in clean energy and bolster the state's cap and trade system.


This is but the latest in a long line of climate legislation that has positioned California as an industrialized leader. In 2015 the California Senate tabled 12 bills to address climate change including increasing the emissions reduction target to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. These new laws applied to everything from agriculture to public utilities mitigation to adaptation and resilience. Specific measures included cutting the use of gasoline on state roads by half, a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency and an energy goal focused on securing half of California's energy from renewable sources. Other measures passed in 2015 include bolstering public transportation infrastructure and divesting public pensions from coal. Other aspects of these climate laws include studying the state's rivers and protecting the coasts. They even put forward a Green Assistance Program that would provide technical assistance to small businesses and others. Brown has also signed environmental and climate agreements with others including Mexico and cities around the world.

Even in 2006 under then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger state policy on climate change was being informed by science rather than politics. The Global Warming Solutions Act or AB 32 commits the state to a 25 percent reduction in GHGs by 2020 based on 1990 levels making California the first to impose a statewide mandate in the US. Schwarzenegger subsequently committing California to obtaining 33% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. A number of other states have followed California's lead. In 2007 Schwarzenegger established the Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS). Although it was working well the state's old energy economy launched a legal challenge against LCFS but its bid failed in the US Supreme Court in 2014.

Despite protests from the usual suspects, California led the Western Climate Initiative, which spawned a number of GHG accords that now encompass more than half of the US and Canada. Schwarzenegger was also a supporter of international agreements like the one that was signed in Paris at COP21. Since leaving office the former governor has railed against Republican climate denial.

However, then as now California's climate action is threatened by Republicans, the oil industry, and some other corporate interests.

In 2010 Dr. Carl Safina, one of the world’s leading marine researchers, wrote the following in The Washington Post December 21st, 2010: “As several writers including myself have pointed out, U.S. leadership on climate change and energy innovation is also very much about national security, patriotism and rebuilding the economy. The nation that owns the energy future will own the future…but the United States has to decide it wants to lead.”

California is doing something right. In 2012 the state was the 12th largest emitter of carbon in the world now it has fallen to the 20th. The new carbon reduction targets will ensure that emissions in the state continue their dramatic decline.

Oil and the GOP are the big losers

The state’s existing mandate will see a ten percent cut in the carbon content of fuel by 2020. This will push 20 percent of conventional combustion engine vehicles off of California roads. The new emissions reduction targets will take that even further.  This is a victory for citizens, the renewable energy industry and environmental groups. Where there are winners there are often losers and in this case the big losers are the most hated industry in America, the fossil fuel industry followed closely by the GOP.

Despite spending millions of dollars to misinform and manipulate, big oil fell flat on its face in California. In an EcoWatch article titled, Big Oil's Nightmare Comes True,  Adrienne Alvord of the Union of Concerned Scientists said,  “This was retail politics and oil lost.”

Simply put, market forces are killing fossil fuels while the declining cost of storage are buoying renewables. This is underscored by the fact that in 2016 solar became the least expensive readily available source of energy in the world.

History will record that it was popular support for renewables and resistance to fossil fuels that made California the first state to bring big oil to its knees.

The oil industry will not accept their slow demise, nor will they accept a tertiary role in the economy. They are going for broke but they are destined to lose. Lest anyone feel tempted to empathize with this evil death star they should remember that this is the same industry that concealed information about their industry's role as a leading cause of climate change.

Most Americans want clean air and clean water but these aspirations are being tamped down by sinister forces in the old energy economy and the GOP. Most Californians want to move forward on clean energy and climate, this includes a majority of Republican voters. However, big oil and members of the state legislature work hard to scare voters with misinformation. Republicans have succeeded in making many voters worry that they have to choose between the economy and the environment. Deniers know that belief in climate change is tied to the economy, so this is their preferred weapon of mass disinformation.

They ignore the plethora of research that shows this is a false choice, we can have both. If such fear mongering would be scrutinized in a rigorous and scientific fashion these fears would be put to rest. Reason, science, and scrutiny are an existential threat to climate deniers. These self-serving planet killers know that belief in global warming is tied to the economy so they fan the flames of fear and exclude a reasonable review of the facts.

Heartland Institute's Fear Mongering in Climate Friendly California

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