Governor Brown Goes Bold on Climate Change

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Governor Jerry Brown was sworn in for a fourth term on Monday and issued a call to action on the environment and, in particular, climate change.

He said, “Neither California nor indeed the world itself can ignore the growing assault on the very systems of nature on which human beings and other forms of life depend. Edward O. Wilson, one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists, offered this sobering thought:

‘Surely one moral precept we can agree on is to stop destroying our birthplace, the only home humanity will ever have. The evidence for climate warming, with industrial pollution as the principal cause, is now overwhelming. Also evident upon even casual inspection is the rapid disappearance of tropical forests and grasslands and other habitats where most of the diversity of life exists.’ ”

The governor continued, “With these global changes, he went on to say, ‘We are needlessly turning the gold we inherited from our forebears into straw, and for that we will be despised by our descendants.’ “

He trumpeted California’s commitment with “the most far-reaching environmental laws of any state and the most integrated policy to deal with climate change of any political jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere.

“Under laws that you have enacted, we are on track to meet our 2020 goal of one-third of our electricity from renewable energy. We lead the nation in energy efficiency, cleaner cars and energy storage. Recently, both the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the World Bank made clear that properly pricing carbon is a key strategy. California’s cap-and-trade system fashioned under AB 32 is doing just that and showing how the market itself can generate the innovations we need,” he said.

He added, “Beyond this, California is forging agreements with other states and nations so that we do not stand alone in advancing these climate objectives.”

But these efforts he said, going even further, “are not enough.”

He said, “The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, backed up by the vast majority of the world’s scientists, has set an ambitious goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius by the year 2050 through drastic reductions of greenhouse gases. If we have any chance at all of achieving that, California, as it does in many areas, must show the way. We must demonstrate that reducing carbon is compatible with an abundant economy and human well-being. So far, we have been able to do that.

“In fact, we are well on our way to meeting our AB 32 goal of reducing carbon pollution and limiting the emissions of heat-trapping gases to 431 million tons by 2020. But now, it is time to establish our next set of objectives for 2030 and beyond,” the governor said.

The governor went further, proposing “three ambitious goals to be accomplished within the next 15 years.”

First, he called for the “increase from one-third to 50 percent of our electricity derived from renewable sources.” Second he called on a reduction of petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent. Third, he called for doubling the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.

“We must also reduce the relentless release of methane, black carbon and other potent pollutants across industries. And we must manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon. All of this is a very tall order. It means that we continue to transform our electrical grid, our transportation system and even our communities,” he said.

“I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles. How we achieve these goals and at what pace will take great thought and imagination mixed with pragmatic caution. It will require enormous innovation, research and investment. And we will need active collaboration at every stage with our scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, businesses and officials at all levels,” the governor said.

He added, “Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels. This is exciting, it is bold and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system.”

Governor Brown drew praise from at least one environmental group. Earthjustice Vice President Abigail Dillen issued a statement, “We applaud Gov. Brown for working to secure a cleaner, brighter future for California and paving the way for the rest of the country and the world to follow. Weaning the state off dirty fossil fuels and embracing clean energy is the kind of immediate action we need to confront the worst effects of climate change. California has long been a leader in solar and wind power which has resulted in a robust and expanding renewable energy industry and drastic reductions in climate warming carbon emissions.”

The LA Times, however, noted that “the governor’s climate change proposals were greeted with muted approval by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, a moderate Fresno Democrat, who has opposed some of the state’s current carbon reducing policies.”

“It’s a good aspirational goal but I think the devil is in the details,” Assemblyman Perea said. “What I really picked up on is the governor’s comments on making our climate change goals work within the boundaries of our economy. That’s really where we need to work on.”

The Associated Press reported that former Governor Gray Davis “praised the environmental goals and said Brown likely based the targets on achievable science.”

“Even if the rhetoric is slightly ahead of reality, he’s always believed that our reach should exceed our grasp,” Mr. Davis said.

The AP also noted, “Some environmental groups urged Brown to go further and ban fracking in California. They argue that tapping the state’s oil reserve will greatly add to carbon pollution.”

“The oil and gas boom threatens to undercut all the other progress that our state may make on climate change,” said Kassie Siegel, a senior counsel on climate issues for the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental nonprofit.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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12 Comments

    1. hpierce

      And, it will be his legacy.  Climate WILL change… always has, always will… questions still exist as to how, and why, and when, but rest assured, for good or bad, the “climate it is a-changing” [nod to Dylan].

  1. Anon

    The evidence for climate warming, with industrial pollution as the principal cause, is now overwhelming. Also evident upon even casual inspection is the rapid disappearance of tropical forests and grasslands and other habitats where most of the diversity of life exists.

    The disappearance of tropical forests and grasslands around the world is probably not within the control of the United States.  Also note the following, which is food for thought:

    “Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.” http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cow-emissions-more-damaging-to-planet-than-co2-from-cars-427843.html

    “Forest fires, erupting volcanoes, and gases released fromradioactive decay of rocks inside Earth are just three examples of natural air pollution that can have hugely disruptive effects on people and the planet.”  http://www.explainthatstuff.com/air-pollution-introduction.html

    “Another harmful gas from the use of fossil fuels is sulfur dioxide, a key ingredient in the formation of acid rain. Sulfur dioxide, however, is a double-edged sword. While it contributes greatly to acid rain, its presence in the atmosphere helps cool the air to counteract the heating caused by carbon dioxide.”  http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/environmental-pollution-caused-factories-31217.html

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      “The disappearance of tropical forests and grasslands around the world is probably not within the control of the United States”

      “Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming”

      those two thoughts are not unrelated.  livestock and changing to sustainable farming and plant cultivation are going to be a key.  livestock are actually a double whammy because they not only emit greenhouse gases and are more energy intensive, but there is the impact of clearing forest land and the need for more land than vegetables.

      1. Anon

        Interestingly, one idea that is being floated out there is eating insects instead of beef, chicken, lamb, pork or fish.  Some company is trying to market cricket flour!

  2. Frankly

    Brown’s legacy will be…

    1. Failure to deal with public employee pensions.

    2. Tax increases… making CA the highest taxed state in the nation.

    3. Chased business and jobs from the state.

    4. Unfunded bullet train to nowhere.

    5. Failure to deal with water infrastructure inadequacy.

    And at the very time that evidence is clear that the “scientific” theories of anthropogenic global warming are falling apart due to a decade of global cooling that invalidates the very climate models relied on for the theories, he doubles down on more business-punishing legislation.

    Is there anything positive in Brown’s legacy?

    One thing… he refused to let all the tax and spend Democrats in the legislature give away the revenue from the tax increases to their union pals.

    1. Don Shor

      Talk about partisan blinders. I’m sure that with little effort you could make a list of 5 positive things in Brown’s legacy from his first term, and he’s just getting started.
      I won’t even bother with “a decade of global cooling.”

        1. South of Davis

          Frankly wrote:

          > I’m  all ears on Brown’s accomplishments.   Fire away!

          If you re-read Don’t post, he wanted “YOU” to make the list…

          P.S. Make sure you don’t tell him he has “partisan blinders” on since he will probably call it an “attack”…

  3. Miwok

    Reducing the emissions from Petrol powered vehicles increases the need for more electricity to charge autos, already at capacity. The newest power plants are largely fueled by natural gas, another “bad” source of power.

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/maps/powerplants/power_plant_statewide.html

    What is interesting to me is the increased support for solar and wind power by SOME groups when others are trying to make the case they both take land and/or they kill birds.

    Since California is one of the most historically egregious examples of invasive species, toxic waste dumps, and bad land use decisions, maybe they should clean up what they have first? People cannot eat fish from SF Bay, most of the rivers have been rerouted or destroyed, and the Delta has been destroyed.

    What happened to all the trees from the 1800’s? Oh – they went up in smoke, or are still underground in old mines. Did anyone replant them? We just had some really bad fire the last few years, and they seem content to let them alone.. “Not my job”?

    Gov Brown seems willing to give us something else to point at while the other things go unattended?

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