California State Capital (photo: Thomas W. Toolan)

Sacramento at 106°

Posted by on September 11, 2015

There’s big news out of Sacramento this week: the California Assembly failed to fully approve two key climate laws.

I say: buck up.

Let’s focus on this: We won some incredibly important climate bills this session. The state is now dedicated to supplying a full half of its electricity from renewable power by 2030 — an amazing accomplishment. California continues to be a climate leader.

We also passed three huge climate adaptation bills that will help us better plan and invest so we are prepared for the impacts of climate change. Preparing for the inevitable effects of climate change is necessary. We’ve already had success in our adaptation efforts; winning cool roof legislation in Los Angeles means we are already cooling our city today and for years to come.

There is a way to wrest away big oil’s Cryptmaster hold on California politics. It comes out of Climate Resolve’s central theory-of-change, which is to make climate change relevant in people’s lives. When everyone understands the impacts of climate change, then the people will demand action.

But first, the autopsy. This past legislative session, green groups, Climate Resolve included, attempted an insider game of leveraging pressure from the Governor and legislative leaders to win the key climate bills. It was a good plan, and certainly worked better than a poke in the eye, but it was not sufficient to thwart big oil’s influence.

Looking ahead, we also need an outside game — a grassroots educational effort that makes climate change so urgent that politicians have no choice but to act. But let me also be clear. There are a number of weak-willed members of the California State Assembly who sided with Big Oil this week and not with the people of California. Their lack of fortitude will not be forgotten.

What do Californians think? Polls show a strong desire to act, but also reveal that Californians know shockingly little about climate change, how it impacts their lives today, and what’s coming tomorrow. And most folks also fail to make the connection between climate impacts and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

We need people to understand how climate impacts their lives on a fundamental level — to feel climate’s breath on their necks. Then efforts to limit GHG stop being a virtue and start being a necessity. Which one of these things do you think politicians can vote against?

Big oil won the latest round because in California, climate change is still viewed as something distant and something you can’t do much about. We have to change that.

That’s why the three successful climate adaptation bills (SB 379, AB 1482, SB 246) are so important. (Climate Resolve helped lead the coalition that won the bills.) Once signed into law and enacted, these statutes will make climate the subject of many thousands of public meetings across the state. Firefighters. Doctors. Nurses. PTAs. City councils. Water districts. All will have to wrestle with, and plan for, our new (hotter) reality.

If only the Assemblymembers had left their air-conditioned comfort zone yesterday. Sacramento was 106° in the shade.

— Jonathan Parfrey

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