Perhaps the path to clean skies and calm seas snakes past Washington and toward Sacramento, with California Governor Jerry Brown blazing the trail.
Such speculation arises even as activists book buses for the People’s Climate March in Washington DC on April 29. No doubt they’ll brandish signs and rally against the Trump administration’s evisceration of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was designed to shrink carbon pollution by 870 million metric tons and align America with the Paris climate accords. Other appointments and policies reveal the sincerity of President Donald Trump’s climate convictions: He honestly believes the deniers when they cry “hoax.”
But California is having none of it. Governor Brown inveighed in January: “Our state is known the world over for actions we’ve taken to encourage renewable energy and combat climate change. Whatever they do in Washington, they can’t change the facts, and these are the facts: The climate is changing. The temperatures are rising — and so are the oceans. Natural habitats everywhere are under stress.”
His state’s regulators followed suit. They recently approved rules designed to cut methane discharges and other short-lived climate pollutants “by up to 40 percent over the next nine years.”
This move signals the informal implementation of a strategy contemplated shortly before the new administration took office: States would re-tighten the loss in federal slack, with the West Coast behemoth leading the charge. California’s $2.4 million gross domestic product is so hefty, the theory goes, that national corporations will be compelled to comply nation-wide.
Such news should buoy the morale of pragmatic wonks who invariably ask, “What do we do when the speeches are done and the signs come down?” Congress, after all, will remain in the grasp of amnesiac GOP leaders failing to remember their party’s environmentally-friendly past; Scott Pruitt will still reign over the US Environmental Protection Agency. Plans to slash EPA funding by a third will still wend their way through an oil and coal-friendly Congress.
After the DC March, solution-oriented go-getters may cram into car pools traveling to state capitals – especially on the Pacific rim. They might even cheer themselves with other good news: CO2 emissions were flat for the third straight year and clean energy job growth keeps sky rocketing.