What Would Proposition 23 Cost Us?
September 2, 2010
In its August 30 edition, The Tribune gave space to Pismo Beach City Councilman Ed Waage to list his reasons why California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, should be suspended by the oil industry-supported ballot initiative known as Proposition 23 (“Boost
economy by voting for Proposition 23”).
Mr. Waage’s reasoning went something like this:
Global warming isn’t really a problem and there isn’t sufficient proof that human actions are a significant contributor. A professor from Princeton told Congress that he thinks the consequences of increasing carbon emissions are “wildly exaggerated.” Environmental organizations that oppose Proposition 23 also oppose renewable energy project proposals that cause needless environmental destruction. (His point here wasn’t clear.)
Let’s set aside the fact that Mr. Waage made his not enough proof of global warming and it’s no big deal anyway arguments just after the six consecutive hottest months on record, and as ice loss in both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is accelerating, and despite the overwhelming preponderance of scientific evidence amassed over the last three decades and reviewed by thousands of climate scientists from 194 countries, which says that Mr. Waage and the gentleman from Princeton are wrong.
Also set aside the fact that the professor Mr. Waage cites, one William Happer, has also said that “We evolved as a species when CO2 concentrations were three or four times what they are now,” a statement that could only be true if our species had evolved 200 million years ago. Set aside the fact that Dr. Happer is the director of the right-wing George C. Marshall Institute, which receives nearly half its funding from the oil industry. Set aside the fact that the oil industry has fought every clean air law California has ever considered or passed, and is throwing millions of dollars into the campaign to pass Proposition 23.
And set aside the fact that environmental groups have not actually “opposed efforts to develop solar power in the Mojave desert,” but have advocated for less environmentally damaging alternative siting and configuration of proposed solar power plants.
Rather, let’s look at the problem in Mr. Waage’s argument wherein he states that Proposition 23 would suspend AB 32 only until “the unemployment rate in California drops back to the rate it was when AB 32 was passed” in 2006.
In fact, Proposition 23 requires the suspension of AB 32 until unemployment has fallen to 5.5 percent for a full year – something that has happened only three times in the last 30 years. The passage of Proposition 23 would kill California’s premier clean air and clean energy law. That’s what it is designed to do.
And let’s note that last June the Los Angeles Times reported that Eric Schmidt, the head of Google, said “AB 32 is an incubator of innovation” that will create jobs as “business responds to the need for energy-efficient buildings, transportation and a growing portfolio of renewable energy resources.”
It is also worth noting that each year, according to the American Lung Association, California’s air pollution contributes to thousands of premature deaths, and more than 9,000 hospitalizations and 300,000 respiratory illnesses. AB 32, as stated in the text of the bill, was created to address the “exacerbation of air quality problems, a reduction in the quality and supply of water to the state from the Sierra snowpack, a rise in sea levels resulting in the displacement of thousands of coastal businesses and residences, damage to marine ecosystems and the natural environment, and an increase in the incidences of infectious diseases, asthma, and other human health-related problems” that accompany rising greenhouse gas
In championing Proposition 23, Mr. Waage wants to roll back the law that was passed to combat these problems and serve as our “incubator of innovation.” Nowhere does Mr. Waage mention what California would save in medical costs by keeping AB 32 in place, or how much we would lose of what we’ve gained in green jobs and investment if AB 32 were suspended. How much would striking down this law cost the people of California in lives and treasure, while protecting oil companies from clean energy competition and relieving them of the responsibility of dealing with the problems caused by their product?
That’s a question Proposition 23’s supporters would rather you do not ask, and a calculation they do not make. Paradoxically, their silence on this point should make the calculations of voters much easier as they decide whether to vote yes or no on Proposition 23.
Andrew Christie is the director, Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club