Sunday, September 5, 2010




The Texas oil companies behind Proposition 23 don’t call it an attempt to deny the existence of worldwide climate change. They just call the landmark 2006 California law they’re essentially trying to repeal a “job killer.”

But this proposition, which would put AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, in abeyance until unemployment levels drop to 5.5 percent or lower for a full year, amounts to getting rid of the world’s strongest effort to do something about climate change.

If you don’t believe there’s such a thing as global warming, go to Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. You’ll have a stunning view over Half Dome, the Yosemite Valley and much of the Sierra Nevada. But you will see not a single one of the many glaciers that gave the overlook its name in the 19th Century, most of which were still dozens of yards thick when Ansel Adams photographed them about 80 years ago.

You could also go to the Scottish highlands, where some botanical gardens now feature large philodendrons and other tropical plants normally associated with places like Hawaii, Costa Rica and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. This, at latitudes similar to those of Helsinki or Moscow. Or look out the window of an airplane flying between California and Europe as it passes over Greenland, which is much greener and far less icy than it was as recently as 15 years ago.

Or read recent studies from state hydrologists that forecast a future of steadily reduced flow in many California waterways as warming continues.

It’s common among deniers to say no one has proven all this has anything to do with modern civilization and its production of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2). But even if there were really no proof -- and the vast majority of the world’s leading climate scientists has repeatedly said evidence abounds -- doing what we can to avoid making things worse would still be the responsible thing to do.

That’s the aim of AB32, which mandates rolling back California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels within the next 10 years.

Proposition 23 would stop that effort in its tracks. For unemployment levels of 5.5 percent or below are unusual even in times of great prosperity.

No matter, say opponents of AB32. The measure is a “job killer,” they contend, and the regulations it will spawn – including a cap-and-trade system to let emitting companies buy “pollution credits” from other firms that are cleaner than required – will cause businesses to leave California in droves.

They present no evidence for this, relying instead on a single "study" from Sacramento State University whose methodology and ethics have been roundly discredited in the months since it was issued. Even Assemblyman Juan Arambula, the Fresno Independent whose legislation paid for that study, has called it worthless.

Another report by the state legislative analyst warns of higher energy costs and resulting job losses if California goes it alone on global warming, but that one confined itself to potential costs and did not even look at potential benefits of using renewable energy sources or the jobs created by the fight against global warming. Nor did it examine the likelihood that other nearby states will imitate California on AB32 if it sticks, as they have most of this state’s other environmental laws.

Meanwhile, it was money from two Texas-based oil refiners, Valero and Tesoro (which sells its gasoline in California under the Shell and USA brands) that put Proposition 23 on the ballot and fuels its campaign. The measure can be seen as a continuation of oil company resistance to clean air measures of all types. Refiners and automakers have fought every anti-smog law California ever passed.

Their claim that AB32 has already cost jobs in California and will remove many more is disputed hotly by the California Business Alliance for a Green Economy, which noted that in May of this year alone, its member companies had active online postings for 7,500 new job offerings.

“AB32 provides the market certainty the clean energy industries need to invest in a strong workforce in California,” the group says, adding that California leads the nation in hiring for “green” jobs, a phenomenon that could end abruptly if Proposition 23 passes.

The anti-23 campaign, which will likely spend almost as much as the yes side, has one big advantage in this contest: In order to vote no on AB32, voters will need to vote yes on 23. That kind of confusion usually leads to defeat for ballot propositions.

If it does this time, California will once again assert itself as the world leader in the search for both clean air and renewable energy.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment