California LAO Climate Change Reports Don’t Include Economic Crisis

April 8, 2022 Updated: April 9, 2022

Commentary

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a series of six reports this week on how climate change will affect various aspects of life in California.

The reports are intended to help the legislature deal with ongoing problems. But the introduction to the Crosscutting Issues report concedes, “Given the complexity of these issues, this report does not contain explicit recommendations or a specific path forward; rather, it is intended as a framing document to help the Legislature adopt a ‘climate lens’ across its policy decisions.”

Despite its value for framing issues, the series does not take into account the burgeoning global economic crisis made much worse by the Ukraine War. That’s important because dealing with climate changes costs money—not just billions, but trillions of dollars. For an indefinite period, that money is going to be in short supply.

Moreover, the dirtiest energy, coal, is making a global comeback because of the boycott of Russian energy, especially natural gas to Europe. Reported Euractiv, “Germany reactivates coal power plants amid Russian gas supply threats.”

And Ambrose Evans-Prichard reported for the London Telegraph, “China’s coal revival may soon slash our energy bills, but at a wicked cost. Xi Jinping’s return to coal is alarming for those who take global warming seriously. It would be a grim irony if the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] rescues Europe from an energy shock this year by shoveling wagons of coal from the mines of Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, trashing the planet in the process.”

The CCP, of course, is allied to Moscow. So it’s going to benefit both from Russia diverting natural gas from Europe to China, and China shoveling coal back to Europe.

California, meanwhile, is a wisp of an afterthought to these international machinations. But Californians themselves sure are going to suffer the consequences of the economic downturn and the increased coal smoke wafting across the globe.

The LAO report warns: “More frequent extreme weather and climate-related emergencies will be increasingly disruptive for California’s residents and economy. These disruptions often will be unpredictable and will include (1) short-term incidents, such as when wildfire smoke or extreme heat events make it unsafe to work or recreate outside; (2) longer-term impacts, such as when floods or fires damage homes, businesses, and infrastructure; and (3) permanent changes, such as higher sea levels or more prolonged droughts causing current activities to become impractical in certain regions.”

Here’s the LAO’s chart of potential problems:

Epoch Times Photo

A lot of this is speculation. And such feel-good policies as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mandate to ban carbon-based vehicles by 2035 is irrelevant in a global context. Europeans freezing in the dark this winter aren’t going to care about how many Teslas cruise the streets in California.

Economic Problems

What the state needs to do is concentrate on two things it can control: a robust economy to deal with future needs and reducing wildfires.

On the economic front, everyone knows how California’s punishing taxes and regulations push out businesses and jobs. It’s been so bad the state even lost a congressional seat for the first time—in contrast to gaining six seats in the booming Reagan 1980s.

The anticipated $45 billion budget surplus this year, if it occurs, is not likely to be repeated any time soon. Unfortunately, neither Newsom nor the supermajority Democrats in the Legislature are talking about using the surplus to cushion switching to a more rational tax system, such as moving to a flat tax.

Thus, the state is in no condition financially to deal with potential climate disasters.

Wildfires Problem

On wildfires, California still is not enacting reforms to “underground” the power lines in areas most vulnerable to sparks igniting the fires. This would help the environment more than anything else.

A 2021 study in Nature Communications found, “Wildfires are becoming more frequent and destructive in a changing climate. Fine particulate matter, PM2.5, in wildfire smoke adversely impacts human health. Recent toxicological studies suggest that wildfire particulate matter may be more toxic than equal doses of ambient PM2.5.”

PM2.5 is particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or smaller. According to the State of Global Air/2018, “Worldwide exposure to PM2.5 contributed to 4.1 million deaths from heart disease and stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and respiratory infections in 2016.”

It’s just going to get worse. A January 2022 study in Science Advances found, “The frequency, spatial extent, and temporal persistence of extreme PM2.5/ozone co-occurrences have increased significantly between 2001 and 2020, increasing annual population exposure to multiple harmful air pollutants by ~25 million person-days/year.”

Three Ways to Prevent California Wildfires

Last July in The Epoch Times, I wrote, “3 Ways to Prevent California Wildfires.” I’ll only summarize here the three ways: Manage forests the way we did before the 1970s by clearing underbrush. Rapidly attack wildfires instead of monitoring them until they get out of control. And underground powerlines, something state Sen. John Moorlach emphasized when I was his press secretary.

All this takes money. And, to reiterate, unless California again becomes friendly to business, it’s not going to have the wherewithal to deal with climate change or anything else. As with a family budget, it’s best to get the state’s finances in order before the bad times arrive.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Seiler
John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com