Anti-AB32 initiative heading toward California ballot in November 2010

AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Núñez, Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006), puts into law a requirement to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This is more-or-less the Kyoto Protocol target and much stronger than the targets considered at the recently failed Copenhagen Summit. Given what this bill requires it is not surprising that a chorus of attackers have called for overturning this law. And, indeed, they have managed to get an initiative approved to be placed on the November 2010 ballot.

The Anti-AB32 crowd want to call this bill the "California Jobs Initiative", a highly misleading name. Atty General Jerry Brown used his authority to rename the initiative to a more accurate if "huh?" inducing: Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year. The initiative would suspend state laws (AB32) that require greenhouse gas reductions, and the suspension would be in force until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent (or less) for a full year. Recall that California's unemployment rate skyrocketed with the recent recession and stands at around 12 percent.

Requiring a 5.5 percent unemployment seems geared to preventing implementation. That low of an unemployment rate occurs only when jobs and business are going like gangbusters. Further, what the opponents miss is that implementing green measures has positive effects on things by enabling new businesses and new jobs.

It should not be surprising that the opposition is funded by out-of-state oil companies (Tesoro and Valero). The kind of companies who would stand to gain from the system remaining as it is. Business as usual means that the existing businesses continue operating as they do today. More specifically by keeping business as usual, it means no chance to change the environmental impact of the economy.

The Anti-AB32 websites (jobs2010ca.com and suspendab32.org) both carry the same talking points discussing claimed higher costs and claim they will result in large job losses. The algebra goes that California cannot afford to lose jobs now when there is already large unemployment. It's an interesting argument that would be compelling, if true. However the "it will cost money and jobs" argument is really an argument to keep things the way they are. Any change will cost money, hence they're creating an impossible-to-meet standard.

The websites also take several quotes out of context to make AB32 look bad. One website has this to say: "Climate change is a planetwide challenge and must be addressed as such. The California Air Resources Board acknowledges this, stating in its AB32 Scoping Plan: 'California cannot avert the impacts of global climate change by acting alone.'" Obviously climate change is a planet-wide problem that requires action all around the world. These websites go on to use that out-of-context quote to describe California's AB32 as a "going it alone" approach. While that sentence does appear in the AB32 Scoping Plan, it is important to read it in context, and to read the whole document.

The full quote (from the scoping document) is: "California cannot avert these impacts of global climate change by acting alone, but failing to act now will slow action around the world. The costs of implementing the Scoping Plan will be a necessary investment in California’s future and will spur action in other states and at the federal level." Further this statement occurs in a discussion of the huge global warming problem, the drastic effects on California's economy if action is not taken, etc.

California has a long history of leading the world on taking action to mitigate environmental problems. Whether it's adoption of renewable energy, requirements for low emission vehicles, curbing diesel exhaust problems, or energy efficiency measures, California has long been a leader in this sort of endeavor.

"ARB has developed preliminary estimates of the costs and savings of the various measures considered in this Draft Plan. These estimates indicated that the overall savings from improved efficiency and developing alternatives to petroleum will, on the whole, outweigh the costs. This balance is largely driven by current high energy costs and the degree to which measures increase energy efficiency throughout the economy and move California toward ultimately cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels."

"The potential costs of implementing the Plan pale beside the cost of doing nothing."

Links: Anti-AB32 Ballot Initiative Renamed by Democratic Governator-Candidate Jerry Brown, http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/publications/factsheets.html