Guest Blogger Ken Alex: Political Will to Address Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Post #9 in a Series on California Climate Policy by Ken Alex, Senior Policy Advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown

[This is the ninth post in a series expressing my view of why California’s actions on climate change are so important and how they will change the world. The introductory post provides an overview and some general context.]

I said at the outset of these blog posts that political will and the issue of scale are bigger hurdles to our GHG reduction goals than technology and finance.  I do not discount the technological and financial challenges, but we can already see pathways for those.  We know how to achieve 90 to 100 percent renewable energy.  That technology already exists, and will continue to improve.  We also know how to produce zero emission vehicles.  That technology exists and will improve.  Those two sectors represent about 70% of GHG emissions.  So, right now, if we were so inclined, we could mandate very substantial emission reductions from electricity and transportation.  That is why technology is not the limiting factor.

It has been estimated that worldwide costs to get to a net zero GHG emission economy will be in the range of $40 to 60 trillion over the next three to four decades.  While that is a large number, and certainly not one that will be covered by government spending, it is relatively modest when compared to the cost of finding new sources of fossil fuel or the costs of the worst impacts of climate change or the cost of refugee crises.  Just as importantly, that investment also represents the potential for profits – new businesses, new jobs, a new economy.  And, of course, the health benefits of the end of fossil fuels provide very substantial economic benefit as well.  Private capital along with government incentives and policies could achieve this level of investment.

Even in California, where the public supports action on climate change, political will is not always easy to come by.  Last year, after a concerted and deceptive campaign by oil companies, the California legislature abandoned efforts to require a 50% reduction in oil usage by 2030.  “Moderate” Democrats killed the bill.  This year, after Chad Mayes, the Republican leader in the State Assembly voted in favor of extending the State’s cap and trade law, Republicans summarily stripped him of his leadership position.  And now, after the legislature managed to pass SB1 to fund transportation infrastructure with a 12 cent increase in the gas tax, a ballot initiative will be on June’s ballot to revoke the tax.   And we have not yet begun the more difficult actions that will move us to 40% GHG emission reduction by 2030, some of which will cost money and cause disruption.

The Republican party denies climate change science.  The President calls it a Chinese hoax.  Oil companies and their allies continue to fund opposition to action and attempts to undercut science.  In Florida and elsewhere, utilities continue their attacks on renewables.  These dynamics are replicated throughout the world.  The old regime will not leave quietly.

So, how do we combat the lack of political will?  First, we need continued economic success of the new order – renewables, zero emission vehicles, battery and other forms of storage, return on investment for sustainability.  That is happening, and the old order, like coal, is losing profitability.  New industries and technologies need to provide jobs and promise as the old order is disrupted.  Second, we need to show health benefits from the new order – less air pollution, better working conditions, improved safety.  Third, we need to ensure that disadvantaged communities benefit from the new order – greater opportunity, more mobility, less pollution, more investment, more jobs.  Fourth, we need to tie climate impacts and the costs of those impacts to the old order, to fossil fuels and pollution.  And fifth, there needs to be election consequences for climate denial and inaction.  In the elections of 1970, the environmental movement, in its early stages, took on the “dirty dozen” congressmen.  When some of them lost their seats, Congress took notice and suddenly every member was an “environmentalist.”  This led to the passage of the Clean Air Act and other notable environmental legislation.  So far, there have been no consequences for climate deniers and their allies in office.  That needs to change.

Next blog:  Scale

Ken Alex is the Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, and serves as Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and the Chair of the Strategic Growth Council.

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Reader Comments

9 Replies to “Guest Blogger Ken Alex: Political Will to Address Greenhouse Gas Emissions”

  1. Ken Alex asked;
    “…..So, how do we combat the lack of political will?…..”

    Dear Ken,
    There would certainly be more political will were it not for the fact that all of the climate mitigation throughout the world to date, has completely failed to mitigate climate. These combined efforts have completely failed to reduce the average global atmospheric temperature, there has been no measurable effect on climate. Climate mitigation is a hoax, there are no guarantees, no warranties, complete failure, total rip-off. Why should we spend $40-60 trillion dollars on crappy fraudulent worthless junk-science climate mitigation that does not mitigate and does not work?

    We need more than empty promises, show us proof. Climate mitigation is the biggest, most crooked con job in American history. California bureaucrats do not have the knowledge, technology and skills to mitigate climate and they cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

    1. The only con is the one that has been pulled on deniers such as yourself. Your argument is invalid: only the first steps have been taken in mitigation by local governments yet you are tapping your foot waiting for proof of a global effect. Local carbon emissions are curtailed by these forward thinking governments but large portions of the world are still increasing their output under the same delusion that you suffer from: that our carbon emissions are not heating the globe in a significant way.

      You and those like you are causing the problem by handicapping efforts around the world and yet you have the gall to criticize the amount of progress made. Shame on you.

      Fortunately younger conservatives are not so easily duped by far-right anti-science brainwashing. It is only a matter of time before the deniers lose influence:

      They’re Here to Fix Climate Change! They’re College Republicans.

  2. High Speed Rail Project Cost Jumps to $77 billion, Opening Delayed:

    “…….The state has spent $2.5 billion in federal stimulus money and has an additional $930 million in federal money on the table. That’s on top of the $10 billion bond from voters. The rest of the money comes from California’s cap-and-trade auctions, a system meant to limit carbon emissions by selling credits to pollute and a volatile source of revenue that can be diverted by lawmakers in the future. Predicted private investment has not come in either……..”

    http://abc30.com/politics/high-speed-rail-project-cost-jumps-to-$77-billion-opening-delayed/3194858/

  3. good try but author offers no remedy to the big Oil&Gas lobby that has captured legislatures everywhere. As long as the SCt stands by its ridiculous Citizens United opinion which allows corporate lobbying, lets face it—- we are screwed.

  4. “….Ken Alex is the Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research…..”

    Dear Ken,
    Please inform the Governor that he should comply with federal immigration laws. We recognize the legitimate concerns of undocumented immigrants and there are good reasons to protect those who are working, law-abiding, and helping our economy. Minor offenses such as routine traffic stops should not result in immediate deportation.

    The Governor should cooperate with federal agents when dealing with serious criminal offenders and stop breaking the law, and stop endangering innocent citizens and law enforcement officers.

  5. This comment is mine speaking as a private individual and member of the public.

    In his blog posts on climate, my friend Ken Alex does a good job of summarizing the issues before the state on climate. However, his memory of some of the recent legislative actions may need some refreshing. I was here in the front row over the past 8 years for most of the climate laws enacted and cited. Regarding SB 350 (the 50% petroleum reduction legislation he references) the current administration threw in the towel on the bill before we even had a chance to take a floor vote on it: not exactly a profile in strong political will in and of itself.

    Moreover, it was pretty much absent from the scene on bills like SB 32 and AB 197 which established the 2030 climate targets. Last summer’s cap and trade negotiations were made much more challenging because of the administration’s inexplicable fealty to interests opposed to climate regulation throughout the negotiations. Meanwhile, it’s opposed bills like SB 49 that would ensure no rollbacks of federal clean air and climate standards (“too much work for state bureaucracies”) and worked to undermine bills like SB 100, the 100% clean energy bill that is stuck in part due to a lack of “political will” from the first floor.

    We do need political will to achieve and maintain our clean air, clean energy, and climate goals. We need helpful and cooperative partners in the executive branch to carry on the fight. Real action is needed. and real leadership is essential. Let’s hope the next administration takes a more active and constructive role in passing the laws that make all of this possible.

    Ken is right: its just a matter of political will.

  6. As long as the profits of the fossil fuel economy are kept entirely separate from the costs of the fossil fuel economy, and our focus is only on reducing our own emissions, it’s going to be difficult to generate the political will. What we need is to make it clear that those who profit most from the fossil fuel economy – where-ever they are – will need to pay a share of the costs of climate change. California municipalities are already on the cutting edge of that conversation – by suing fossil fuel companies for local climate costs. But we all need to talk about that – by sending climate accountability letters, by passing legislation, and by suing fossil fuel companies. https://www.wcel.org/blog/climate-change-culture-shift-talking-about-exxons-share-climate-costs-increases-its-financial.

    1. Andrew wants to save the world;
      “…..by suing fossil fuel companies…..”

      Dear Andrew,
      Have you considered suing an old denier like myself? Our informed commentary on Legal Planet has severely curtailed and set back the climate kooks. We elected Trump, overturned the CPP, abandoned Paris and emasculated the EPA. Why not sue us instead of those impersonal faceless fossil fuel companies? Deniers rule.

      1. “We elected Trump…”

        It is almost comical how people as misinformed as BQRQ absolutely revel in their support of the most ignorant bumbling fool ever to sit in the White House. When Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters,” he was surely talking about the likes of BQRQ. Or maybe even better is when Trump told Romney several years ago to push birtherism because “rightwing crazies” will believe it.

        BQRQ and the like will be an interesting case study of the easily duped for historians and psychologists. By taking a stroll through his comment history here and sampling the absurd things he has fallen for, you will find claims that are unfortunately all too common among the fringe far-right. They exist on a self-selected media diet that tells them what they want to hear about their social issues, and in turn they dutifully swallow the most laughably absurd horse manure that gets passed out alongside it. Whether it is believing the childishly stupid idea that thousands of scientists speaking a hundred different languages around the world are engaged in a conspiracy to hurt his poor innocent fossil fuel campaign donors, or that Obama is a gay communist Muslim atheist married to his transgender lover, “Michael.” Hand people like BQRQ a boogeyman that fits with their prejudices and they will joyously adopt it and raise it as their own. They will even go on environmental forums and insist on bringing up “sodomy” and make it clear to everyone that there is a “mysterious” connection between homosexuality and climate science (seriously folks, BQRQ does this all the time, I’m not even joking).

        They also embraced the most contortionist forms of hypocrisy. Here is BQRQ from before the election chastising Hillary for, of all things, avoiding the issue of Bill’s adultery:

        Hillary criticizes Trump for “sexual assault” but she avoids mentioning the legitimate issue of adultery. Why does Hillary avoid using the word adultery? The sin of adultery is a tenet of Biblical morality which Hillary repudiates. Perhaps it would be hypocritical for Hillary to condemn adultery while honoring sodomy. Is this the reason why Hillary is focused on “sexual assault” instead of adultery. It seems that she is not comfortable elaborating on this issue.

        https://legal-planet.org/2016/10/19/battle-for-the-senate-north-carolina/#comment-29476

        And then there is this quote from a couple months prior:

        “Never vest your hope in people that hate God.”

        Yet for some reason he is boastful of his support of Trump, who has a long history of philandering, sexual assault, and who sleeps with porn stars while his third wife is recovering from giving birth to his child.

        “Our informed commentary on Legal Planet has severely curtailed and set back the climate kooks.”

        This is probably the saddest part. That BQRQ is so lacking in self-awareness that he can’t see how disturbed he appears to the average person. He imagines himself as a champion making progress for his cause by posting here on this forum. I guess after being on the losing side of history for almost his entire life, he will cherish the occasional dog slop that gets tossed his way. That slop this time is named Trump.

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