Evidence that climate change is wreaking havoc upon the planet abounds throughout the world. In California, researchers have completed a detailed assessment of exactly how climate change will likely impact the state’s diverse ecosystems and continue to compromise its increasingly scarce resources. Legislators and policymakers are taking action to mitigate this impact and also set a precedent for the rest of the country as far as it concerns curbing fossil fuel emissions and working to improve the quality of air and water. Climate change legislation in California has placed the state at the center of a heated political standoff with the Trump administration, which recently began to dismantle the Clean Power Plan policy instituted under the Obama administration, reevaluate carbon standards for new coal plants, and reconsider methane emission regulations for oil and gas refineries, among other things (Plumer, “Trump’s Big New Executive Order”). To get a better sense of the scope of this major political issue in California, it is first crucial to review the biggest threats that climate change poses to the state. Following a discussion of this current forecast, key policies and legislation that aims to curb the state of California’s carbon footprint will be examined along with viable solutions.
Climate change poses harrowing danger to California’s stability. Whether its impact manifests as extreme weather patterns, intensified storms, longer periods of drought, or reduced snowpack, the reality is that climate change will negatively affect the lives of everyone living in the state (Howard, “5 Key Threats”). Among the gravest of the looming threats are extensive drought and wildfires, a damaged coastline, poor air quality, the spread of disease, and diminished biodiversity particularly with regard to the native fish population.
As the Sierra Nevada region of California becomes increasingly hot and dry, and the state’s water reserves begin to dissipate, drought will become commonplace throughout regions that were once plush and wildfires will consume more land.
The projected rise in sea levels of up to 4.6 feet would change the shape of the state’s coastline, while the ocean would inundate coastal cities resulting in mass evacuations, and saltwater would adulterate the state’s groundwater (Howard).
Poor air quality would become a frequent occurrence due to the mixture of increased exhaust from vehicles, accumulated farm field dust, and heat that yields smog (Howard).
From valley fever to the West Nile virus, increased temperatures would likely spread disease at an alarming rate. Biodiversity will suffer a major blow as researchers estimate up to 82 percent of the state’s native fish species may approach extinction (Howard).
These major threats to California’s environment barely begin to scratch the surface of what climate change will do unless strict policy and legislation are set in motion to curb the state’s carbon footprint.
“California’s Stake in the Climate Change Battle” (Associated Press)
California now finds itself at the center of a political standoff with the Trump administration on account of the goals and policies it has established with the intent of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By increasing dependency upon solar energy, creating incentives for electric cars, and applying stricter regulations to businesses, the following legislation aims to bolster California’s efforts to curb its emissions: (1) SB 32: California is required to cut greenhouse gas emissions to “40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030”, and (2) AB 197: “establishes a new legislative committee to oversee environmental regulation, giving lawmakers more say in efforts to improve air quality and reduce pollution” (Reilly, “California Takes An Unprecedented Stand”).
Passing this legislation was challenging due to the backlash and lack of support from the California Chamber of Commerce, leading oil companies, and advocates of job creation in the state (Reilly). It is also coming under fire and attack from the Trump administration, which decried California’s defiant commitment to enforcing regulations on greenhouse gas emissions (Kasler, “California vs. Trump”). Right now, the Trump administration could potentially rule that California does not have the authority to enforce stricter standards that aim to improve air quality, for example. If that transpires, litigation would soon follow to ensure that California’s right to enforce stricter regulations to mitigate the impact of pollution would be protected. The state shows no signs of backing down or recoiling, and it intends to remain a leader at the forefront of climate change legislation in the decades to come.
Beyond California’s key policies and legislation concerning the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other toxic pollutants, there are practical things that we can do on the ground to support efforts to preserve the quality of our air, water, and other resources. We have within our power the ability to reduce our energy use and consumption, the ability to use alternative modes of transportation including public transportation or walking to our destinations, home insulation, water conservation, high energy efficiency appliances, renewable energy resources, recycling, and planting trees in order to compensate for the damage caused by mass deforestation (“Top 10 Things You Can Do,” www.climatechange.gc.ca). Although the current administration may threaten to disband the very legislation that states like California have put in place in an effort to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, each of us can contribute to the fight to preserve the environment and begin to heal this planet that we share.
Care to make a difference in the life of the planet? Send a letter to the president on your thoughts about the situation on the following website:
“Facts on Climate Change – Top 10 Things You Can Do to Help.” Government of Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada. Canada.ca, 30 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=D27052CE-1>.
Howard, Brian Clark. “5 Key Threats to California From Climate Change.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 27 May 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140812-california-climate-change-global-warming-science/>.
Kaslerdkasler@sacbee.com, Dale. “California vs. Trump: California Regulators Move Forward on Climate Change Rules.” The Sacramento Bee | Sacbee.com. The Sacramento Bee, 24 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article140631063.html>.
Plumer, Brad. “Trump’s Big New Executive Order to Tear up Obama’s Climate Policies, Explained.” Vox. Vox, 27 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/3/27/14922516/trump-executive-order-climate>.
Reilly, Mollie. “California Takes An Unprecedented Stand Against Climate Change.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 11 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-climate-law_us_57d2d195e4b03d2d459a0747>.