As we reach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, some dangerous misconceptions linger from the 20th. Two of which are that global warming is not happening and that it is not primarily a man-made phenomenon. While factors such as Solar Irradiance clearly have secondary and significant impacts, emission of heat trapping gases from human activity, coupled with wide scale deforestation of the Earth, compromise Gaia’s ability to manage such rapid change.
While that debate is settled one indication remains constant: Climate Crisis involving the rapid acceleration of Earth temperatures is real. And for the purposes of this post fighting it does not necessitate sacrificing employment in industrialized nations. In fact, an opposite case merits presentation.
This past summer anticipation of the political season overwhelmed common sense. Prominent Republican Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain retreated from support for Cap and Trade legislation eyeing mid-term elections no doubt feeling pressure from Smog Lobby financiers and pollution advocates such as Koch Industries. Many politicians abandoned their support for the legislation in efforts to distance themselves from President Obama or please mainstream media king Fox News. A very informative post-mortem can be found in Ryan Lizza’s As the World Burns in last week’s New Yorker.
Once again into the breech is California. As the innovation pacesetter, it leads in the national debate regarding policy formulation around the Climate Crisis and is poised to set pace for the rest of the country. In California many Republicans are fighting against Proposition 23, which aims to halt the State’s bold Assembly Bill 32 (A.B. 32) legislation aimed at creating a clean-tech economic factor. Meanwhile Representative Darryl Issa threatens to re-open the so-called “Climategate” hearings if the GOP regains control of the House of Representatives.
Prominent and distinguished conservatives such as George Schultz back Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his battle against Big Oil. Two Texas oil companies with refineries in California, along with pollution rights financiers Koch Industries, fund a campaign to halt California’s landmark laws designed to slow global warming and promote clean energy innovation. These would require refiners to install state-of-the-art emission-control tools. Opponents of Assembly Bill 32 assert that the installation of such technology would not create any jobs. Yet, the State of California reckons that green technology creates the most jobs right now in California, 10 times more than any other sector.
In addition, former Secretary Schultz begs to differ with the Smog Lobby, “Prop 23 is designed to kill by indefinite postponement California’s effort to clean up the environment…This effort is financed heavily by money from out of state. You have to conclude that the financiers are less concerned about California than they are about the fact that if we get something that is working here to clean up the air and launch a clean-tech industry, it will go national and maybe international. So the stakes are high. I hope we can win here and send a message to the whole country that it’s time to put aside partisan politics and get an energy bill out of Washington.”
Since President Obama and Congress have failed to pass a clean energy bill, California’s laws are our nation’s best hope to stimulate clean-tech in America – and the job creation it would entail.
Prop 23 proposes to suspend implementation of A.B. 32 until California achieves four consecutive quarters of unemployment below 5.5 percent. The unemployment rate is currently above 12 percent. This is misleading. A.B. 32 was designed to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 and was supported by Republicans, Democrats, businesses and environmentalists. Prop 23’s provision requiring a 5.5 percent unemployment rate is deceptive because in the last 40 years California has rarely produced an unemployment rate below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters, hence the real intent is to kill clean air policy in California.
To quote Dan Becker, the director of the Safe Climate Campaign, “Now that industry and their friends in Congress have blocked progress there, the hope for action moves to the states and the Environmental Protection Agency… polluter lobbyists are tight on our heels. They’ve offered Senate amendments to block the E.P.A. from using the Clean Air Act to cut power plant pollution. Since that failed, they are trying to block California from moving forward. … If the people of California see through the misrepresentations of the oil industry, it throws climate denialism off the tracks and opens the door for a return to a science-based approach to the climate. It would be a triumph for the National Academy of Sciences over the National Academy of Fraud.”
Energy chemist Nate Lewis of Cal tech states, “The real joke is thinking that if California suspends its climate laws that Mother Nature will also take a timeout….We can wait to solve this problem as long as we want…But Nature is balancing its books every day. It was a record 113 degrees in Los Angeles the other day. There are laws of politics and laws of physics. Only the latter can’t be repealed.”
To put a fine point on the fact that much debate on climate change is manufactured, one need only look at what Republican spin-meister, Frank Luntz, noted in a memo to George W. Bush in 2002. “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science…Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”
But Mother Nature and the Chinese are not going to wait around for American political cycles. Let’s close with a quote from The Governator. “And they [Big Oil] are very deceptive when they say they want to go and create more jobs in California,….Since when has [an] oil company ever been interested in jobs? Let’s be honest. If they really are interested in jobs, they would want to protect A.B. 32….”
Editors Note: Many of the quotes and uncited sources in the last half this post are adapted from Thomas Friedman’s excellent piece in the October 5th, 2010 edition of the New York Times “The Governator vs. Big Oil”.