Jonathan’s Crazy: Prop. 23 Is the Most Important Environmental Initiative

Jonathan claims in this post that Prop. 23 — the California ballot initiative that would prohibit the state from implementing its climate change legislation — is NOT the most important environmental initiative on the California ballot this fall.  That honor, he says, goes to Prop. 25.  Prop. 25 reforms California’s rules for passing a state budget.  I agree with Jonathan that Prop. 25 is crucial for restoring a modicum of budget sanity to the Golden State.   But he’s just plain wrong that budget reform is more important for the environment than defeating Prop. 23.  Here’s why:

1) If California defeats the big oil/Koch brothers’ backed anti-climate change proposition, we send a loud and important signal across the land and across the globe that we can and will begin to tackle the most important environmental problem of our lifetimes and do so with public support.

2)   If the opposite happens and Prop. 23 passes, well, the signal is about as ugly as it gets.  Even a progressive state like California will be seen as opposed to climate change legislation.  I admit that it isn’t as though Prop. 23’s defeat would encourage Congress to get in line and adopt a climate bill but if the proposition passes?  Forget about it.  Indeed if Prop. 23 passes and Democrats lose a large number of Congressional seats the EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions may be in serious jeopardy.

3)  California’s climate legislation is sweeping, serious and ambitious.  In contrast, efforts like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), while laudable, are modest and small scale.  RGGI is the first up and running cap and trade program in the U.S. aimed at greenhouse gases.  But it covers only electric utilities and requires only a 10 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2018 from current levels.  California’s legislation cuts its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and applies to the state’s entire economy.  If Prop. 23 passes, the country will have no serious climate change regulation in place except for regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.  And of course those regulations would never be in place but for California’s leadership.

4)  Successful state experience with environmental regulation can demonstrate to the rest of the country that they should follow our lead.  We’ve shown that repeatedly — most notably with the regulation of pollution from automobiles but also in implementing aggressive energy efficiency standards for buildings, efficiency standards for appliances and so forth.  No other state is attempting to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as ambitiously as California so if our efforts go by the wayside the country will have no experiential basis to draw on (other than RGGI) in designing climate policy.

5)  Indeed there’s a whole school of thought that the most effective — indeed perhaps only — reason Congress will pass federal environmental legislation is to preempt state environmental regulation.  If California is no longer in the business of economy wide climate regulation Congress will face much less pressure to pass a federal bill.

6)  If Prop. 23 loses and California continues to implement its climate legislation, other states may  follow suit.  Even without federal legislation, we could have a significant percentage of the national economy covered by climate legislation.  If Prop. 23 loses, no states will go it alone.  They lack the economic power of California and need its leadership to regulate.

So Jonathan, you’re just wrong.  Prop. 23 is the most important environmental initiative on the ballot, not Prop. 25.

Reader Comments

7 Replies to “Jonathan’s Crazy: Prop. 23 Is the Most Important Environmental Initiative”

  1. I can see both sides of this, but I’ll add something to defend JZ against AC: Without a majority-rule or on-time budget, implementation of AB 32 will be seriously impaired. From inside state environmental agencies, I’ve seen budget delays and deficiencies have devastating effects on morale. Morale truly affects agency performance.

    I think Prop. 23 is going down, and am happy about that, but am not so sure about Prop. 25. So I think at this point it’s more important for the environment to work on passing Prop. 25.

  2. Yeah but last year had furloughs and budget delays and was at least as big a mess, yet CARB managed to keep to its AB 32 implementation deadlines. I’m not saying Prop. 25 isn’t important, just that the connection the environment seems, well, a little attenuated. So Jonathan is obviously still wrong 🙂

  3. Ann said;

    “…Indeed if Prop. 23 passes and Democrats lose a large number of Congressional seats the EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions may be in serious jeopardy…”

    Dear Ann,
    Thanks for making this point. Those of us on the other side will be very pleased to see the end of EPA’s efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. We believe that the threat of catastrophic climate change has been greatly exaggerated, and all of us would benefit from less stress in our lives.

    There is much we can enjoy and appreciate about our environment without having to worry about climate change. We should relax, there is no compelling need for endless speculation and anxiety about the climate. Stop and smell the roses and try to be happy, help others, and live in peace.

  4. Well if the people and governments of the world give up on preventing climate change, it would be a big mistake to relax — we should start moving back from the coasts. And shore up harbors, etc. I imagine there would be many opportunities to help others with that. Including “warm jobs.”

    (Smell the roses on break.)

  5. There’s one more thing you probably should consider when worrying about worrying about Prop. 23. It’s a proposed initiative *statute* that would not prevent the Legislature and Governor from passing and signing “AB32 version 2” in a special session right after election day. Prop. 23’s statement of purpose and operative language, in full, is:

    The people desire to temporarily suspend the operation and implementation of AB 32 until the state’s unemployment rate returns to the levels that existed at the time of its adoption.

    SEC. 3. Division 25.6 (commencing with Section 38600) is added to the Health and Safety Code, to read:
    38600. (a) From and after the effective date of this division, Division 25.5 (commencing with Section 38500) of the Health and Safety Code is suspended until such time as the unemployment rate in California is 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive calendar quarters.
    (b) While suspended, no state agency shall propose, promulgate, or adopt any regulation implementing Division 25.5 (commencing with Section 38500) and any regulation adopted prior to the effective date of this division shall be void and unenforceable until such time as the suspension is lifted.

  6. Much of the damage of Prop. 32 is predicated on anthropogenic global warming which is a science fraud demonizing CO2 when it is entirely innocuous and insignificant.

    CO2 is a “trace gas” in air, insignificant by definition, 1/7th the absorber of IR, heat energy, from sunlight as water vapor which has 80 times as many molecules capturing 560 times as much heat or 99.8% of all “global warming.” CO2 does only 0.2% of it.

    Carbon combustion generates 80% of our energy. Control and taxing of carbon would give the elected ruling class more power and money than anything since the Magna Carta of 1215 AD.

    The Two Minute Conservative at has political analysis,
    science and humor. Now in the top 4% on Kindle.

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About Ann

Ann Carlson is currently on leave from UCLA School of Law. She is the Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and was the founding Faculty Director of the Emmett I…

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