40% carbon reduction in emissions below 1990 levels? That is a bold step from California, the state known for bold environmental steps. Two bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed this week will broadly impact the economy for at least the next 14 years and bring the world’s sixth largest economy that much closer to doing their part to keep global temperatures and sea levels down reports the LA Times.
The reported rhetoric on success or failure caught my attention. There are some do-nothing merchants of doubt and cynics invested in business-as-usual who are attacking the bill.
Some business groups have already raised concerns. Allan Zaremberg, president of the state’s Chamber of Commerce, said the law doesn’t require “regulatory agencies to give any consideration to the impacts on our economy, disruptions in everyone’s daily lives or the fact that California’s population will grow.”
Isn’t that the line every time? Whether it’s been the regulation of CFCs or sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants, DDT or methane leaks from fracking operations, the big polluters just can’t help but say, “This will kill the economy.” They’re like broken pull string dolls. You’d think they’d notice that their arguments don’t align with reality. Research over the last 20 years has shown that well-crafted environmental regulation drives innovation and success, especially for those early adopters…like California. And really, it’s as if they live in a world of bizarro economists and risk assessors. Following on the work of Nicholas Stern, they aren’t paying attention to how climate change already has and will disrupt the economy and that sound ethics and economics point to swift and widespread action to mitigate carbon emissions.
These people are desperately clinging to rhetoric as dry as the drought-blighted ground in California.
Don’t take this to mean it’ll be easy. Nope. Far from it. There are folks like Stanford’s James Sweeney, director of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, who think that the target is unlikely. But Sweeney says he’s hopeful.
If the people of California (and the rest of us) give this honest effort, they can make the 40% reduction goal. And if they and we fail having really tried, that’ll have to be good enough. There is honor in honest failure. There is only dishonor in quitting before we start. It’s going to be exciting to watch California do this. As importantly, it’ll be exciting to see what we do in Ferguson Township and in Pennsylvania to move farther on the sustainable energy path.