The Global Climate Action Summit last week in San Francisco was like a peacock convention for high-profile Democrats. They seemed to be strutting everywhere in full eco-plumage.
Nancy Pelosi. Jerry Brown. Al Gore. John Kerry. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, already campaigning for president in 2020. San Francisco Mayor London Breed. A handful of governors. State electeds. County supervisors. City council climbers.
There was AFL-CIO president Richard Trumpka. Harrison Ford. Celebrity business executives such as Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, IKEA CEO Jesper Broden, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who this week purchased Time Magazine. And on and on.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s hinted he’ll run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, was there, too.
I was in San Francisco for the two-day summit at Moscone Center. During the week, I attended a number of side events scattered throughout the city, examining hundreds of different aspects of climate change.
A key takeaway: Fighting climate change is the business of the rich.
Indeed, that’s as it should be. The actions of consumer economies helped create the problem. They should pay to fix it.
The world’s poor suffer the effects of climate change the most — drought, famine, fire, floods, dislocation — and they’ll pay a bigger personal price than the rich when coping with government programs to mitigate it. Several indigenous speakers from around the globe reminded the well-heeled attendees of that inconvenient truth.
Assorted protests were also part of the scene. Bloomberg noted the irony, as a group of protestors snuck in with press credentials and interrupted his keynote address: “Only in America can you have environmentalists protesting an environmental conference.”
While there I had my first real chat with state Sen. Bill Monning, whose interest in climate policy was competing with his anxiety over whether Gov. Jerry Brown would sign his Diablo Canyon closure bill. Luckily for us, after the summit the governor did sign SB 1090, bringing some $85 million in property tax mitigation and economic development money to San Luis Obispo County.
While elected Democrats flocked to the GCAS 2018, I didn’t see an elected Republican. Not one.
Perhaps because their party’s official position is that climate change isn’t real, that “the jury’s still out.” Or that they embrace the president’s ignorance about climate change, his assault on Obama-era policies designed to deal with it, and his denial of mounting evidence that extreme weather events and other consequences of global warming — long predicted the vast majority of credible scientists — are now here.
Let’s be clear: There’s no “preventing” climate change. We’re now just trying to mitigate it. It’s not just real — it’s here: 2018 is on track to join 2015-2017 as the four hottest years on record worldwide.
Fortunately, California continues to lead.
Two days before the summit opened, Gov. Brown signed a bill requiring all of California’s electricity come from renewable and zero carbon sources such wind, solar, hydropower and others. The bill ratchets up the target from 50 percent to 60 percent by 2030, and then to 100 percent by 2045.
This is directly opposite Donald Trump’s electric power “plan” to roll back Obama-era regulations phasing out high-carbon coal in our power grid, and Trump’s gift to Big Oil relaxing regulations on methane, a particularly lethal greenhouse gas.
Brown also has set a goal of putting 5 million electric cars on the road by 2030 while dedicating $2.5 billion to vehicle rebates and charging infrastructure, much of it coming from carbon cap-and-trade auction revenues. Other states represented at the summit are catching up, while some 70 cities — including L.A., Atlanta, Denver and Orlando — have signed onto a goal of buying enough renewable power to supply all their electricity use.
Only 16 states and Puerto Rico — most led by Democrats — are following suit. Efforts to persuade Republican-led states like Michigan, Ohio and Texas to join in have failed.
“That has been one of the great struggles,” Jay Inslee, Democratic governor of Washington state, told The New York Times before the summit. “But I can tell you that I am confident that the alliance will grow after this next election cycle.”
Not in my lifetime, nor in the American history I’ve studied, has there been such clear distinctions between the two major political parties on so many key issues — climate change being merely one, but affecting everyone on the planet — on the eve of a major election.
Your votes are your voices. Together, they can form a chorus for reason, science and sanity.
Liberal columnist Tom Fulks serves on the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Central Committee. His column runs every other Sunday, in rotation with conservative columnist Andrea Seastrand.