Bipartisanship helps make California a world leader in fighting climate change
by Gene Beley, Delta correspondent
September 14, 2014
• Nobel Prize winner R.K. Pachauri praises state’s efforts
• How to quit singing in the shower — and not embarrass your gym friends at the same time
• WITH VIDEO
Environmentalist and actor Ed Begley addressed the conference
(Photo by Gene Beley)
“The world looks to California as the leader in climate change,” said climate scientist R.K. Pachauri, who flew from India to participate in the University of Southern California/Schwarzenegger Institute symposium on climate change recently held in Sacramento.
Past California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was there, along with his actor friend, Ed Begley Jr., who is perhaps as well known for his environmental activism, along with other environmental leaders.
Mr. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accepted a Nobel Prize in 2007 on behalf of scientists at the IPCC, along with Al Gore, for their efforts to build and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change and how to counteract the changes.
The seminar featured a second Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kammen, distinguished professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley. He won his Nobel Prize the same year for being the lead author of the IPCC report, Climate Change 2007.
Mr. Begley, who appeared in the 1975 movie “Stay Hungry” with Mr. Schwarzenegger, talked about the role of the media in the climate change discussion.
He told how in 1988, he discussed with a friend, Bonnie Ries, about the role of media and how to get the message out. He asked her why she thought the media was so important.
“Because there’s not time enough to go door-to-door,” she told him.
“We need the electronic media, the print media, and now the Internet to get the word out,” said Mr. Begley. “I don’t mean to denigrate the people who go door-to-door because I’ve done it myself and grass roots work is important. But you need more than one tool in your tool box.”
He showed a video of British comedian John Oliver, who was a regular on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and evolved to his own show, “Last Week Tonight” on HBO. The video showed one of Mr. Oliver’s shows where he vented about how network shows bring in one negative climate change “expert” like Bill Nye, (the entertainer known as “The Science Guy”), and balance it off with one scientist who believes there is climate change, adding that one in four Americans remains skeptical about climate change.
“You don’t need peoples’ opinions on a fact,” said Mr. Oliver. “You might as well have a poll to ask people which is bigger — 15 or 5? It’s not if it exists, it’s what we should do about it. There is a mountain of research on this topic and global temperatures are rising. Heat waves are becoming more common. Sea levels are also rising. And no research is complete without a polar bear balancing on a piece of ice.”
Mr. Oliver once invited Mr. Nye to his show. But to balance it off, he invited 96 scientists who didn’t agree with Mr. Nye’s opinion that there would be no climate changes. As soon as Mr. Nye uttered, “I don’t believe all the science is in yet,” the comedian ushered in the 96 scientists who circled Mr. Nye and, when asked their opinion, drowned out Mr. Nye, of course, and that’s where the clip ends. (You can view the full clip in our embedded video with Mr. Begley’s speech. Click on the link at the end of this story.)
Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said Mr. Schwarzenegger was one of the rare politicians who didn’t shy away or duck the important issues. “Instead he greeted them with positive joy to engage one of the great issues of our time, climate change. He reminds me California has frequently been blessed with leaders who match the size and importance of the beauty of our state.”
Ms. Nichols said the governor who signed AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that requires a sharp reduction in greenhouses gasses throughout the private and public sectors, always said, “The people didn’t see air as a Republican or Democrat air. They just wanted clean air.”
Mr. Schwarzenegger said California is 40 percent more energy efficient than the rest of the country. “If the rest of the country would have our policies, we could literally close two thirds of our coal-fired power plants.”
Terry Tamminen (an Orange County climate advisor who also was a panelist at the symposium) said, “That is the equivalent of 188 million cars off the road.”
“As leaders all over the world prepare for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in England and Paris, we are here to lead by example,” continued Mr. Schwarzenegger. “Governor Reagan established the Air Resource Board. Governor Brown’s vision of renewable energy during his first two terms has marched relentlessly to its green, clean energy future. Californians have never seen the environment as a political issue. We recognize there aren’t conservative or liberal roads. We all drive on the same roads. We breathe the same air. There is no conservative or liberal water. We’ve never believed in putting our environment in an ideological corner. We are lucky to have such beautiful resources from our towering sequoias to vast beautiful deserts to our pristine coastline. Californians demand that we protect these wonderful resources.
“When I became governor, I couldn’t wait to get into office to do some great work for the environment. This is why we passed the low carbon food standards, the green building initiative, the million solar roof renewable portfolio standard, the tailpipe emission reductions, and the AB32 where we made a commitment to reduce our greenhouse gases by 25 percent by the year 2020 and 85 percent by 2050,” Mr. Schwarzenegger continued.
“And we created the Sierra Madre Conservancy — the biggest conservancy in the history of California with 25 million acres of protected land. California has consistently moved forward to put our money where our mouth is. We never waited for the federal government or an international agreement. California did not believe in waiting. We believe in being in a perpetual state of motion. When California passed its laws, there were some experts who thought we were absolutely insane. They said it was Washington’s job. We say the hell with that — we don’t wait for anyone,” the former governor said.
“Some of these so-called experts said the economy would come crashing down and we would go down the drain. None of this happened. We attract more than half of all the venture capital in the United States. Our green companies have raised five times as much capital as the next biggest one,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger.
He said even as the state implemented its tougher environmental standards, California’s economy outpaced the nation’s. “In 2012 the U.S. GNP grew 2.8 percent but California grew 3.5 percent. The experts were wrong, but we were right. In California we don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy. We know the opposite is true,” he said. “We also know to do nothing will cost us a fortune down the line from hundreds of billions of dollars to repair of infrastructures, danger of flooding, to tens of thousands of heat and pollution related deaths and the never ending fire season.”
Mr. Schwarzenegger reminded his audience about the scare tactics his opponents used.
“Remember when the catalytic converter was required? People screamed it would be the death of Detroit and the end of the auto industry. The same with the tailpipe standards. The car companies declared war on us.”
Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. said in his speech later that automaker Henry Ford II came to Sacramento to meet with him, Tom Quinn, who was head of the Air Resources Control Board then, and Mary Nichols, now his successor.
“They ended up returning to Detroit relatively happy,” Mr. Brown asserted.
“The federal government fought us, too,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger. “The car companies and the federal government all sued us. They refused to give us even a waiver to clean up our own air. They said the greenhouse gasses were not another pollutant — imagine! We were forced to take the federal government to court. We took it all the way to the Supreme Court and they decided yes, greenhouse gasses are a pollutant.
“Even though they tried to do everything they could to put in a roadblock to stop us, the opposite has happened. Fourteen other states passed similar emission standards as California. There are a lot of people joining us. In 2009 was the ultimate victory when the Obama administration made our tailpipe emission law a federal standard,” he said.
Mr. Schwarzenegger also credits the people of California with being wise to the guiles of those who were dump the touch environmental standards.
“When we passed AB 32, all companies, especially coal companies, came swarming in from other states. They spent millions of dollars to try to pass Proposition 32 to undo everything we’ve done on AB32,” he said. “Of course they told the people they’d lose their jobs and it was all scare tactics. We didn’t pull back. We put together a great team of Democrats and Republicans and raised $31 million. On the day of the election, the people of California terminated Proposition 32. It was ‘hasta la vista, Baby’ to those oil and other companies. We told them to leave their fossil fuels where they belong.”
Mr. Schwarzenegger did say he looks forward to getting an international agreement on clime change because as most people know, “I like sequels.”
Mr. Brown’s closing speech
The current governor said he isn’t sure they could have gotten AB32 passed “if we had a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor.”
“We needed a Democratic legislature and a very independent minded Republican governor,” he said, which got immediate applause. “Of course a lot of these things are like the California Environmental Quality Act and a bunch of other things we have in California that started under Reagan. Then the next guy who comes along has got to make it work. So that’s what I’m doing with AB32. But make no mistake about it — to get AB32 through the California Legislature was heavy lifting. I’m not sure any other governor might have done it. Not only do you need big dreams, but you can’t know everything about the Legislature, or you wouldn’t even try. That’s why we need some fresh eyes on the prize.”
Then Mr. Brown, who is seeking a fourth term as governor, hesitated and quickly joked, waving his arms, “Not right now. We don’t need any fresh eyes. Eventually, though, we will need some fresh thinking in Sacramento.”
The public was not allowed to attend this Sacramento climate conference in a rather small auditorium. Thus it was mostly preaching to the choir of close governmental and academia colleagues, except for the credentialed press looking for short articles and TV sound bites. But few will now debate their message that climate change is here for real. California’s increasing number of forest fires is a clear statement, as well as the drought and other visible factors.
One can counteract climate change it in small ways. Mr. Pachauri said that instead of taking your car to the 7-11 store, walk or ride a bike. He said he likes how children sometimes shame their parents into making changes like one boy getting his father to quit taking half hour showers where he also embarrassed others at his gym club by singing in the shower. He got his father to cut the showers to just seven minutes. When going from room to room, he tells kids, turn off the lights. Invest in the newest technology light bulbs.
Bob Foster, former mayor of Long Beach, told how they developed a clean air action plan for the Port of Long Beach. They had a plan for vessels, trucks and equipment on the harbor.
“Everyone said they were going to go elsewhere and we’d ruin the goods-moving industry, along with the economy in California. We didn’t believe that. We wound up creating a vessel speed reduction program, an incentive for vessels to move from bunker fuel to distillate fuel that gave a remarkable reduction in pollution,” Mr. Foster said.
“We notched up the model of trucks you had to have for coming into the port. We started with 1994 and today you have to have 2000 or newer trucks to enter the port. The pollution in the port is now down in excess of 80 percent form when we started. And we banned plastic bags three years ago. The trucking industry stepped up to the plate and we did it almost entirely on private sector funds,” he said.
Mr. Kammen said Science Magazine showed a picture of 570 vents on the sea floor on the U.S. east coast with methane bubbling out of the ground because the pressure temperature is changing as we warm the water. He has been building economic models around the country, Canada, Mexico, and now even China and Chile to compare what will happen under different circumstances.
“The most important message for you to take away today is that we have a growing, stable job creating, low cost opportunities to green our economy,” he said.
“Never forget,” said Mr. Patchouli, “it is the common people we’re trying to work with — people who need jobs, people who need to develop their businesses and have the quality of their lives improved.”
Former California Governor Arnold Shwarzenegger vows to continue fighting the battle for climate control standards from Gene Beley on Vimeo.
Ed Begley Jr. talks about the role of the media in climate change at USC Schwarzenegger Institute climate conference from Gene Beley on Vimeo.
CA Governor Jerry Brown tells Sacramento USC Schwartzenegger conference that California sets the standards for the world from Gene Beley on Vimeo.
Eminent world reknown scientist Dr. R. K. Pachauri tells USC Schwarzenegger Institute Ca is the leader in climate control from Gene Beley on Vimeo.