Virtual Town Hall Reveals Climate Change Goals in California

November 26, 2021 Updated: November 26, 2021

Commentary

Events like the recent YouTube Town Hall held by state Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) for his constituents can be very revealing regarding climate change goals in California. It addressed the Glasgow Climate Summit, called COP-26, which he attended. He represents part of Silicon Valley and is vice chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change.

He brought up how his area of the state is greatly impacted by sea-level rise, smoke from wildfires, and drought. Stopping in Portugal on the way to COP 26, he said they have off-shore windmills for electric power, but he mainly wanted to talk about their wildfires, which are similar to California’s. Other countries impacted “by the climate crisis already” include Ghana and Australia, bringing us “a shared sense of momentum and action.”

He said the goal is “getting to zero,” the name of his Senate blog, meaning zero carbon use.

“We have to remake every aspect of our climate. Every aspect,” including transportation, building, building materials and agriculture. “That’s why it’s the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced, but also the greatest opportunity that we’ve ever faced.”

He said he went to COP 26 to “show it can be done” because California has “reduced its emissions 20 percent, while growing our economy by 60 percent.” But California still has to “move much, much faster to both meet our goals, and to do what needs to get done for the rest of the world.”

The problem is he doesn’t mention that California has become so expensive that its population is going down because of high taxes and cost of living. In particular, the environmental regulations he touts have slowed housing construction, reducing affordability to just 24 percent of households in the third quarter of 2021.

People are escaping the environmental and other restrictions by moving to less restrictive states, such as Texas, Florida and Tennessee. That’s hardly an example for the country and the world. He pointed out Tesla was started in his district, not seeing the irony that CEO Elon Musk just announced it would be moving its headquarters to Texas.

On COP 26, he said the “content, the connections, the hope” were incredible, including “taking the train” and meeting such people as Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who long has been involved in these issues.

He said COP 26 accomplished a lot, “but not more than we hoped.” He sought “real momentum,” not just talk. He attacked the Trump administration for not showing up at similar conferences, apparently a reference to it withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, which President Biden since has rejoined.

Becker brought on two panelists who attended COP 26. First was Sweta Chakraborty, a behavior scientist who develops climate change strategies. She said the main takeaway from COP 26 was “the 1.5-degree goal,” of keeping the global temperature no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Public and private actors must “activate” the goal. But emissions have to be reduced by 45 percent by the end of this decade. And at COP 26, “more than 100 countries agreed to cut methane… a potent greenhouse gas.” It was pushed by the Biden administration, then China got behind it. China for the first time said it pledged to reduce methane.

Next came Aimee Christensen, CEO of Christensen Global Strategies, which works toward lower carbon use. She said everyone at Glasgow was agreed “at a minimum net zero by 2050…. What gave me hope was the near-term goals from the investors and the businesses” who operate globally to “ratchet up” the process to get to net zero by 2050.

She praised Becker for his leadership in reducing greenhouse gases from the cement and steel industries. Governments need to put in place policies that help businesses and shareholders “align” their practices with the goals “toward reducing emissions,” she said. But what’s needed is more California-style policies to support investors.

She said countries are concerned about the policies slowing growth, “even though California has shown how the policies drive economic growth.” That may be true for the digital elite in Becker’s district. But for most Californians, an $800,000 median price for a house, caused greatly by the California Environmental Quality Act and other restrictive environmental policies, makes living here exceedingly difficult.

Christensen also mentioned how the U.S. and China are the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. So getting China on board with these agreements will advance GHG reductions.

But criticism of the commitments of both China and India was fast and fierce, beginning with COP 26 President Alok Sharma. He attacked both countries for pledging to “phase down” coal instead of “phase out.” He added, “China and India will have to explain themselves and what they did to the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world.”

The Times of India also reported, “Officials said India objected to the fact that only coal was mentioned and not oil and gas, which is primarily used by the developed countries.”

Then there’s a long Nov. 19 article in the Washington Post on “Africa’s Rising Cities.” It found, by 2100, “Thirteen of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa—up from just two today—as will more than a third of the world’s population.”

And from April, this was in DW, “In South Africa, power outages are not the exception but the rule. In the past, those power cuts often occurred in the cold winter, but today the lights also suddenly go out in the summer. The country’s power grid and power plants are outdated, and energy demand has increased.

“Like South Africa—where around 90% of energy comes from coal—other African countries have embarked on mining this raw material. Botswana, Tanzania, and Mozambique are among the leading countries.”

The fact is the rest of the world isn’t going to let itself starve or freeze to death to meet the ideological demands of the Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires who back Becker’s politics. China just announced it is bolstering its nuclear arsenal. Nobody is going to tell them how many tons of coal to mine. India also has nuclear weapons.

Becker also misled his audience on such matters as global warming supposedly causing California’s wildfires, when the real causes are antiquated power lines that spark and ignite fires, a large number of new houses in or near forests, a failure to clear underbrush and the natural cycle of fires that has occurred for millennia.

Despite my questions about Becker’s Town Hall, it was worthwhile for providing all Californians an insight into the thinking predominant in Silicon Valley.

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