Just as Jerry Brown did before him, California Gov. Gavin Newsom had plans to travel overseas to talk about fighting global warming. And like Brown’s venture before him, the trip would have been a waste.
Four years ago, Brown, in his next-to-last year as governor, made a trip to Hamburg, Germany. There he addressed the G20 Summit, telling world leaders that “it’s up to you and it’s up to me and tens of millions of other people to get it together to roll back the forces of carbonization and . . . combat the existential threat of climate change.”
California’s current international relations governor was expected to be in Glasgow, Scotland, from November 1-3 for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or “COP26,” highlighting for the world “California’s groundbreaking policies to combat the intensifying climate crisis and rally the global community to end their reliance on oil.”
Newsom pulled out, however, “due to family obligations.” He instead participated virtually.
Brown, who after leaving office became keeper of the Doomsday Clock, a countdown to man’s self-destruction, said Newsom’s presentation was intended “to bring attention to the climate successes of California, showing we can have a very strong economy and a very vigorous climate action program.” If we lived in a more rational world, Newsom would instead be pointing out that this state has prospered because economic growth hasn’t been burdened by “vigorous” climate policies.
PRI senior fellow Wayne Winegarden believes that policymakers’ “top-down approach to global climate change” is not only “failing its environmental goals,” it is also imposing “large economic costs on residents, especially those living in poor, rural, inland, and minority communities.”
California’s gasoline prices (currently the country’s most punitive) and electricity rates, all driven higher by carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, and various mandates, regulations, and restrictions, are always among the steepest in the nation. When prices for these basic commodities are increased, they push the cost of living far beyond the means of many. They don’t get to enjoy the benefits of a robust economy.
The current California governor, as well as the next one, and the next one, and on down the line, can do nothing about the climate. For all the hot gases emitted to further the manmade global warming narrative, state efforts to “combat the existential threat of climate change” are useless.
If California were to disappear today, the impact on the climate would be roughly zero. This state contributes only about 1% of all human-produced greenhouse gases. The same goes for the entire country. The U.S. produces only 14% of world greenhouse gases.
While that ranks second after China’s 28%, it’s a share that will only shrink as China and India, the third-largest producer, continue to build power plants that rely on fossil fuels. (Editor’s note: Some global studies on greenhouse gas emissions put the percentages for the U.S. and China higher; a Net 0 analysis puts the U.S. at 19%, second only to China at 35% among top-emitting countries.) China is on a “coal spree,” says Yale Environment 360, despite its pledge to cut emissions. Not two years ago, Wired reported the country ”is still building an insane number of new coal plants.” In India, where a state-owned business is the largest coal mining company in the world, the black rock is “king.” Both of those nations, as well as Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam, “plan to build more than 600 coal power units,” says Britain’s The Guardian.
There’s no way for California to counter the buildup of fossil fuel use outside the state lines. No amount of speeches at international meetings, pleadings, grandstanding, or public policy will overcome these nations’ desires to grow their economies, which they know requires accessible, affordable, and reliable energy.
But Sacramento and local lawmakers will not be deterred from making more useless rules. It’s a niche they’ve selected for themselves, one they’re comfortable with.
If they’d listen, we’d strongly suggest they instead pursue a path toward energy prosperity. It would require substantially reforming mandates, and the adoption of a market-based approach to energy policy. Were they to follow through, “Californians could save big,” says Winegarden, as much as $2,000 a year per household.
“Junking expensive and unrealistic 100% renewable mandates and solar requirements,” eliminating state-only mandates on gasoline, and moving ahead with free-market energy policies “would be like giving a major tax cut for Californians struggling economically in these tough times,” he adds.
Tax cuts would be helpful, too. But California’s stiff cost-of-living wasn’t legislated overnight, so the unwinding has to be accomplished in steps, and revamping energy policy is a good place to start. First, though, lawmakers will have to let go of their climate-change-hero complex. That’s going to be the hardest part.
—Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), where he writes weekly op-eds and blog posts on statewide issues, and occasional books and policy papers.