You’ve probably heard the news wherever on the planet you are. California’s legislature is commiting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels (so, by 25%) by the year 2020. I’ve got a class to prepare, and so can’t spend a huge amount of time writing a long cheerleader-type post about this, but I am so delighted. (Stories in the BBC, LA Times and New York Times, for example.)
This is so important for so many reasons. Besides the obvious one of us just getting on with the task of doing this sort of thing, there is the symbolism. This flies in the face of the Bush administration’s lack of leadership on the whole issue, and will help nullify that lack of leadership, since the other states will be able to look to California’s lead on this as a powerful example. The world takes notice too, since California is -as an economic force in its own right- the number 8 economy in the world. None of this will happen if the economics are not done correctly.
The point is that it can make economic sense (despite fears that possible resulting increase in energy prices might scare businesses aay from California) if it is carefully managed (a point made very well in the speech by the Kevin Nobloch, th President of the Union of Concerned Scientists delivered to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies last month. I meant to report on that here, but I did not. Sorry.)
First of all, to do nothing will push us further into economic uncertainty and possible huge problems. This is sometimes really obvious. For a random and very visible example, in California, our water supply for general use and irrigation of the farmnig industry (a huge contributor to the number 8 position) depends a lot on snow pack. With that reducing a great deal due to warming trends, can we afford to ignore it? Another snow-based example, given in the aforementioned speech in Aspen, is the reduction in the number of snow days in Aspen in recent times. The ski-industry-supported people in the audience (i.e., almost everybody) sat up at that point. So ignoring the problem is a mistake.
Second, there are other serious economic considerations. If you sit around and wait for the rest of the world to construct new industries -and the jobs that go with them- in the technological and scientific areas of cleaner fuels, energy efficiency, emissions reduction, etc., you’ll miss the boat. Those industries will happen, somewhere on the planet, and they will be huge. The smart choice is to get in on the act early, and create those industries and jobs in your back yard. This is what California is choosing to do. This is great!