Thursday, January 12, 2023
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Environmental Legislation Prof Weblog

In one among Tuesday’s least stunning outcomes, California voters reelected Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. It wasn’t shut. This may appear attention-grabbing provided that you’re predicting the 2024 presidential primaries. However Newsom’s reelection has broad significance for local weather coverage and legislation, each in California and past.

Assume for a second about conventional arguments towards responding to local weather change. For years, maybe essentially the most highly effective argument, at the very least in political spheres, was that dwelling in a spot that genuinely tries to handle local weather change was going to be rotten. We’d lose our lifestyle; we’d lose our prosperity; we’d lose our freedom.

Opponents of local weather change mitigation made hay with these arguments. Certainly, fears of a response to local weather change have satisfied many individuals that it’s higher to simply fake local weather change doesn’t exist. And proponents of local weather motion have generally conceded the purpose, successfully saying that all of us should endure now for the sake of what would possibly seem to be an summary and future purpose.

This argument is difficult to reconcile with the present-day realities of California.

The state has responded aggressively to local weather change — not solely by political rhetoric and motion, although there’s been plenty of that, but in addition by real modifications in our power combine. In 2021, lower than half of California’s electrical energy got here from fossil gasoline sources, in accordance with the California Vitality Fee. That share has been declining for years, pushed primarily by growing photo voltaic and wind power era. Electrical vehicles are additionally more and more prevalent, accounting for nearly 18 p.c of 2022 new-car gross sales.

The state has a protracted solution to go, however Californians are properly previous the sensation {that a} renewable power transition is hypothetical and summary. We all know individuals who work in renewable power industries. We see the implications of that work in our day by day lives. If responding to local weather change was going to stink, we’d comprehend it by now — and we’d take out our frustrations on incumbent politicians. As an alternative, we simply reelected a climate-conscious governor in a landslide.

One other Dimension to Local weather Politics

For many Californians, there’s one other dimension to local weather politics. Along with dwelling by a renewable power transition, we’re additionally dwelling by the direct results of local weather change. That half actually does stink, and it truly is a menace to our freedoms and lifestyle.

The present southwestern megadrought is essentially the most excessive in centuries, and local weather change is an exacerbating issue. One of the crucial palpable penalties of that drought — wildfire smoke — has spared most of us this 12 months however has been terrible in earlier years. When poisonous smoke retains you housebound for days on finish — or when your job requires you to be out in and inhale that smoke — worries about responding to local weather change appear deeply misplaced.

As an alternative, for a lot of Californians, responding to local weather change appears a lot much less threatening than not responding to it. And that’s mirrored in our votes.

After all, this all would possibly change. Attending to 55 p.c non-fossil-fuel electrical energy is kind of completely different from attending to one hundred pc, and the challenges of attaining a totally electrical car fleet are properly documented.

California additionally faces challenges making its renewable power transition extra accessible and equitable for lower-income residents. Vitality-price inflation is hurting us identical to everybody else (although a key driver of that inflation, for electrical energy costs, is wildfire legal responsibility).

Certainly, I don’t know any Californian who works on climate-related points who thinks we have now all of it found out. However I’ve additionally been struck, all through my fifteen years dwelling right here, at our collective sense of confidence that we can determine it out. Many individuals right here view climate-related challenges as thrilling issues to tackle and, generally, as entrepreneurial alternatives.

One would possibly learn this and assume, “Effectively, that’s simply California. You’ve all the time been completely different and peculiar.”

There’s some reality to that; a mix of environmental commitments and technological optimism is distinctive to this state. However we’re not that completely different. Forty-two states pump much less oil than California (if you happen to assign Gulf of Mexico manufacturing to Louisiana). Many different states have promising renewable power assets. Many different states are feeling the ache of local weather change. And Californians are likely to vote their pocketbooks and day by day experiences identical to anybody else.

If politicians right here can reap political rewards for shifting towards a low-carbon future, the identical can occur elsewhere. And that, I hope, is a key lesson from Tuesday’s election.

– Dave Owen

(cross-posted on the Heart for Progressive Reform weblog)



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