May 3, 2016 (San Diego) Climate change is a critical issue for San Diegans. This city has passed a forward looking climate action plan, supported by both democrats and republicans, as well as independent voters. This was a plan that received wide spread support. Part of the reason is that San Diegans know climate change legislation is not damaging to the economy. We know this since we have over a decade of evidence across the state. Assembly Bill 32 has proven that you can reduce green house gas emissions and keep a vibrant, competitive economy.
So we decided to take a peak at Secretary Hillary Clinton’s climate plan. We also looked at Donald Trump’s plan. His is really easy to score. He has none. He believes this is bunk, so with that, we only have hers to look at. Part of what is driving this are her statements to a coal miner in West Virginia where she actually said she misstated her intentions of driving coal out of business earlier in the year. In case you wonder this was in Williamson, West Virginia, where protesters did outnumber supporters. This is according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
Ashton Marra reported that Clinton kept referring to a plan released last summer that would invest $30 Billion in coal communities to improve health, the economy and education. In effect this would diversify the economy in Appalachia. One miner confronted her, and told her “I just want to know how you can say you’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of jobs and then come in here and then tell us you’re going to be our friend.”
Clinton argued that the statements made during a debate earlier in the year in Ohio on CNN were taken out of context. This is more like the kind of waffling on issues she’s been accused of doing in the past.
One of the protesters outside said that in 2008 she was phone banking for Clinton. But since 2008 she changed every position and moved away from working people. This seems to be another change in her position. While there is a climate plan on her site (link), she either is going to act on it, or not. Regardless we do need to score her.
There are a few facts that matter. She believes that natural gas is a bridge to green energies. Therefore she supports fracking, both in the United Stares and abroad. This is not unlike the Obama administration that has opened an unprecedented number of fields to extractive industries in the continental United States. These industries are also part of the large number of bundlers for the campaign, and might explain Charles Koch backhanded endorsement earlier in April. Koch industries is a big player in the petrochemical industry.
Fracking is not supported by large groups of Californians and it does have some nasty environmental effects. It does pollute ground water and the effects on seismic activity are currently being debated. It is not whether the process can produce earthquakes, that has been settled, but how serious they can be.
AB 32 and the Clinton Plan
One point made by the campaign, and many politicians, is that aggressive action on climate change will slow down the economy. In fact, it will lead to a depression worst than 1929. Yet, the California economy is still growing and doing well. We as a state have a vibrant economy and are close or have surpassed AB 32 lofty reduction goals of 30 percent of 1990s green house gas emission numbers. The Clinton plan calls for 33 percent in eight years, and that is seen as aggressive outside of California. It is actually quite moderate.
As of 2014 the State is on its way to meet the new goals of 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. These numbers are those recommended by the scientific community. They are aggressive, but achievable. Nor do they destroy the economy as has been claimed, In fact, they have created a slew of new jobs in the renewables sector.
At this point we enter into the type of politics that we are seeing. First, climate change has become so politicized that it has become a central feature of ideology. Why the right in English speaking countries speaks of this as a conspiracy to destroy the free market. It is akin to religious dogma, no matter contrary evidence presented. While less conservative politicians run on the ideal of slow incrementalism and slow change. This is Clinton’s plan.
This science should not be political to begin with, but it has become a political barrier that not so skillful politicians are unable to explain. So the range of acceptable political discussion is well less than what we really need to do as a species to tackle the crisis.
The Clinton plan is far from bold. It is business as usual. We know that voters in the general election will be faced with with two major choices. The first is the Republican almost religious denial of the issue. The second is the democratic choice of slow incrementalist. The California experience has proven that there is an appetitive for bold action, and that it will not kill the economy. For the first time we are pointing to the Green Party, that actually has a more aggressive plan. Partly they have no player of winning the election. But it should become part of the discussion, together with the totality of AB 32 and how it has been implemented.
We are facing a global crisis, and political calculations are not going to get us where we need to be. We score this democratic plan as better than nothing, but it does fall short in many fronts.