Climate risks keep growing, despite government shutdown
My heart goes out this week to those off work without a paycheck today due to the government shutdown. One of my favorite CA blogs, The Nooner, had a great description of the impact on California in this post yesterday – turns out we’re home to the largest number of civilian federal government employees of any state in the nation. The shutdown will affect more than 96% of EPA employees as well, including those who enforce critical air pollution standards.
Despite the shutdown, work continues here outside the Beltway bubble. At Next Generation, we’re very excited this week about the launch of the Risky Business project, co-chaired by Tom Steyer, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and focused on making the case that just as businesses understand their long term investment risks, so should the U.S. understand its long-term climate risk. Bloomberg Markets did a very nice piece on the project this week, and it has received some good coverage already from a number of reporters, including some Cliffnotes readers (thanks!). This project was hatched at Next Generation, and we’re staffing the co-chairs and the rest of the project’s “Risk Committee” members, so expect plenty of updates from me in the coming months.
One difference between the Risky Business project and other similar economic looks at climate change is that we’re going to present our results not just at the national level, but also by state. That means we’ll have plenty of new information to work with as we try to understand just what kinds of climate risk California may face in the coming decades. Of course, we’re already feeling the impacts of a warming climate here in the Golden State. Our agriculture and tourism sectors are at the front lines when it comes to climate impacts, and they’re also key economic mainstays for the state and nation: According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California’s farms generated $43.5 billion worth of output in 2011, representing nearly 12% of total cash receipts of farms in the United States. California also produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. Meanwhile, Visit California estimates that travel spending in the Golden State totaled over $106 billion in 2011, supporting nearly one million jobs with $32.3 billion in earnings, and generating $6.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.
But as I’ve said many times before, our state may lead in scary climate impacts but we also lead in innovative business and policy solutions. I’m happy to say that it looks like our state policy agenda is well on track: This week, the California Air Resources Board released the draft first update to its Climate Change Scoping Plan, showing that California reached 23 percent electricity generation from renewable sources this year, and is well on track to meet the 2020 goal of 33 percent under the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Looking toward the future, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research released its own discussion draft of California’s Climate Future – The 2013 Environmental Goals and Policy Report. What I like about this report is that it breaks down the artificial boundaries between adapting to climate change – something our cities have to do each and every day – and mitigating climate change, which is what long-term policies like AB32 are focused on. It’s an economic development approach that makes sense in a state where the population is projected to reach 50 million people by 2050.
All these strategies and plans are one thing; implementing actual policies to reduce carbon emissions is another. That’s why I like keeping my hand in the Proposition 39 implementation arena – it reminds me that these are real programs affecting real Californians, and they need to be done well. This week, the California Energy Commission released its draft guidelines local educational agencies applying for projects under Prop 39. According to that document, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will begin sending out Prop 39 funds in May 2014, which is actually later than I had thought, so we’ll be checking into that! The CEC also released the schedule for workshops and webinars, should any of you be interested in engaging in that public process. If you want to stay up to date with all things Prop 39, I highly recommend signing up for the CEC's Prop 39 listserv here.
Finally, because I know you’re all laser focused on the health, safety, and energy efficiency of school facilities, ACLU of Southern California recently released its analysis of lessons learned from nine years of implementing Williams v. California. The report bears reading, particularly in light of the implementation challenges associated with the new Local-Control Funding Formula. Also it cites to our work at Next Generation, and that’s no bad thing!