Jerry Brown and Co. See No Reason for Doubt
SACRAMENTO — California’s top public officials are “all in” when it comes to the issue of man-made global warming. Gov. Jerry Brown has been in the news for his doom-and-gloom comments at a Vatican climate-change symposium. This week he poked his nose in the Republican presidential race. He blamed wildfires and drought on global warming and then asked the candidates: “What is your plan to deal with the threat of climate change?”
The governor’s increasingly heated rhetoric no doubt is explained by his honest belief that something must be done. But there may also be a practical reason that California officials are so eager to see other states, the federal government and other countries embrace similar climate-change policies.
One state — even as large as California — cannot have any noticeable effect on the Earth’s temperatures. The landmark AB 32 law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 to turn back California’s greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, was never championed as a way to slow the Earth’s predicted warming. It was designed to be a model for others.
The California Air Resources Board, which implements the state’s warming policies, looks at “leakage” — reductions in greenhouse-causing gases within the state that are offset by increases outside of it. That’s a recognition that new regulations imposed on businesses through the state’s cap-and-trade system don’t reduce overall emissions if businesses flee elsewhere.
And the state’s business community sees the new carbon tax as something that kills jobs. Public concern about future climactic crises is hard to sustain if the economy struggles. So Brown and legislative leaders need to keep the public on board, especially after Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, introduced a far-reaching bill that would mandate a 50 percent reduction in gasoline use, 50 percent increases in energy efficiency and require that 50 percent of the state’s electricity be generated by renewables — all by 2030.
That could be expensive and strain public support for such policies. Last year, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found “most Californians support the state’s landmark law mandating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions ….” But it came with a caveat: “(R)esidents’ support declines significantly if these two efforts lead to higher gas prices or electricity bills.”
Yet a similar PPIC survey on Californians and the environment released in July finds no such hesitation by respondents: “A solid majority of Californians believe that global warming is already having an impact, and nearly two-thirds of residents say it has contributed to the state’s current drought,” according to PPIC’s statement.
“Unfortunately, this poll fails to ask what previous PPIC surveys have asked, how do we achieve these goals and do Californians believe they can afford to pay for it,” said Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, in a statement. “This is a problem with the bills working their way through the Legislature. They have lofty goals but are not upfront about how they will be met and at what cost to families and small businesses.”
In response, PPIC sent a statement from President Mark Baldassare: “In the absence of factual analysis of the costs and benefits of each of them, to families and businesses, we asked a question we’ve consistently asked and one that taps into Californians biggest concerns about their economic futures: ‘Do you think that California doing things to reduce global warming in the future would cause there to be more jobs for people around the state, would cause there to be fewer jobs, or wouldn’t affect the number of jobs for people around the state?’”
It remains hard to get advocates for far-reaching global-warming policies to address the costs and benefits of the specific policies they advocate. Indeed, de Leon’s office released a post-poll statement explaining the “results demonstrate beyond the shadow of the doubt” that Californians embrace the state’s approach.
But without pondering costs along with benefits in a detailed manner, how can there really be no doubts?