California’s Best Investment in the Fight Against Climate Change

Trump is on a search-and-destroy mission against climate science & energy research. We need to fill the gap.

How can California best move the ball on the climate issue? Ann Carlson and I have just published an op. ed. in the Sacramento Bee making the case for a state climate-research fund and explaining how it could be implemented. Here’s why investing in new knowledge is such an important move for California.

California can make the most impact if we get a multiplier effect, with our investments leading to further action by others. Knowledge is the most portable of all commodities, and there are crucial gaps in current knowledge. First, although available technologies will get the world to our 2025-2030 goals –much deeper cuts are going to be needed for 2050 and beyond. We’re going to need new technologies. That’s going to take basic research of a kind that private markets don’t supply. Second, although current climate models are pretty good at identifying long-term, large-scale trends, they’re weaker at predicting the timing of changes and at projecting local impacts. Cost-effective adaptation will require more precision as a basis for planning. The federal government has been subsidizing this kind of knowledge creation, but that’s obviously not going to be a priority for Trump or the current Congress – far from it. By filling the gap, California can be the catalyst for climate progress over the long haul and on a global basis.

Why California, you might ask? One reason is that we care about the issue, and we want to make a difference. Another reason is that California has the financial heft, as one of largest economies in the world. And finally, this research effort plays to California’s strengths. We have what is probably the strongest cadre of climate and energy researchers anywhere, taking into account the state’s universities, national labs, and Silicon Valley. For that reason, we can play a role that no other state – maybe no other country – could play.

California is already doing a lot, of course – setting an example to the rest of the country, while communicating to the rest of the world that all is not lost in the United States. Reducing our own emissions and starting to think about adaptation are crucial tasks. But we can make the most difference with actions that make climate progress possible not only here, but also globally. Money spent on installing rooftop solar in California is important, but it only reduces California’s emissions. But investing in new technologies and prediction methods will create tools that we and other people around the world can put to work. That’s why generating the knowledge that humanity will need over coming decades is our best bet to promote progress on a global basis.


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Reader Comments

4 Replies to “California’s Best Investment in the Fight Against Climate Change”

  1. There are many possible technologies, both large and small (the latter especially in the area of energy efficiency) that could address carbon. Three we “otter” consider are in my area of expertise, but will require some fundamental research to validate.

    First, Lovelock and Rapley have proposed artificial upwelling to nutrify tropical waters. They proposed wave powered pumps, but Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plants, by the basic nature of their operation, bring up huge amounts of deep ocean water and produce energy with it. They can also produce bioaccessible nitrogen compounds at sea using the energy they produce. Some researchers have suggested that the Redfield ratio might be a limit to carbon sequestration by this method, and artificial nitrogen compounds might be appropriate. Karl and Leteiler have done the most advanced research in this area.

    Artificial aeration (probably wave powered) of littoral waters is another possible carbon sequestration tool and may be more important in limiting methane for anoxic waters (cleaning up these waters will work too, and it’s underway, but aeration is a Band-Aid).

    Finally, just for the Pacific, restoration of kelp forests would provide a major sink for carbon. Here the key is restoring the keystone species for healthy kelp, sea otters (which were nearly hunted to extinction for their fur). I am not sure how to get sea otters to colonize new areas, but it is probably worth doing for its own sake and can’t be as expensive as a lot of other things.

    The technology is there for these ideas and many more, but there has to be some will and incentives as well. We also need research to make sure we are doing the right thing – remember the old saying of engineers; “It seemed like a good idea at the time”.

  2. In addition to developing new ideas, California should act quickly to capture and save knowledge about climate-related matters that has been readily available up ’til now, but may be lost or actively destroyed with Trump in control. For example–all the data NASA has about climate-related information about the atmosphere.

  3. The Beginning of the End of EPA:

    “……We propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation from the federal bureaucracy to the states and to transform the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] into an independent bipartisan commission, similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with structural safeguards against politicized science.” It also says “We will likewise forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide, something never envisioned when Congress passed the Clean Air Act…..”

    1. BQRQ, over the years it has been made clear to me that it does absolutely no good to criticize those who anoint themselves as pre-eminent because they simply marginalize all those of us who are not allowed into their Ivory Tower, otherwise they would communicate with us.

      The most tragic fact of life that they ignore, at our increasing peril, is that they themselves are marginalized or their efforts would have resulted in actions to protect the environment and guarantee an acceptable quality of life for our newest and future generations by now instead of being nothing more than a mutual admiration society,

      They only keep proving that the answer to the question “Can we adapt in time” is No.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

READ more