Earth Day 2030: California celebrates reaching net-negative emissions

Let’s imagine it is April 2030. In the early 2020s, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, we in California finally addressed the climate crisis at the speed and scale science demanded.

Nation & World Collaborating for Speed & Scale Climate Action

Today, Earth Day 2030, we celebrate the deep systemic changes we have collectively made for a healthy, equitable, and climate-safe future. We reflect back on an exceptional ten years of climate action.

The decade began with a nightmare, COVID-19, which woke us up to the deadly consequences of ignoring science. We quickly realized that we must heed the warning of climate experts and take immediate, bold action to avert climate catastrophe.

It took an exponentially growing body of diverse advocates (like you!) putting pressure on policymakers to create bold change in line with the science. COVID-19 showed us how quickly and dramatically we could change government policies, unleash market forces, and create opportunities for everyone to participate in a climate-safe economy.

Today we look back on our many achievements, including:

  • California accelerated the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use. 

Legislation enacted in the early 2020s is showing enormous benefits for health, the environment and the economy as the state halted all new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and began rapidly phasing-out fossil fuel-powered cars, trucks, buses, trains, and equipment.

We dramatically increased investments in public transportation, housing near jobs, and innovative programs that reduced toxic air pollution, especially for frontline communities.

The state also enacted zero-emissions building codes and began phasing out methane gas. We are grateful to the workers whose livelihoods were dependent on fossil fuel industries for making this rapid transition to a 100% GHG-free, clean energy economy possible.

Ranchers, farmers, and public resource managers were incentivized to implement climate-friendly habitat and soil protection and restoration programs on millions of acres from the Sierras to the sea.

Farmers led the way in reducing emissions while supporting food and water security with climate-friendly, regenerative production.

  • Unavoidable damage from extreme climate events meant that California became heavily invested in community resilience and protecting the most vulnerable, lower-income communities.

Legislation enacted in the early 2020s funded and supported California’s counties and cities to develop and implement clean, local, decentralized, resilient energy and storage, building independent capacity to address climate and other emergencies.

Major new state programs funded and supported local climate emergency response and preparedness measures, including early warning systems, resilience centers, and public education programs that are now benefitting all Californians.

  • California created new financing mechanisms, from frequent flyer fees and carbon taxes to private sector investments, that generated the billions of dollars needed annually for speed and scale climate solutions.

Millions of people took action to bring about the changes in policy that accelerated our transition.

On this Earth Day 2030, we commit to continuing our efforts to secure a healthy, vibrant, and equitable future for all.

We can achieve this vision if we act today based on the latest science. Support The Climate Center and help make Climate-Safe California a reality. Make every day Earth Day!


Due to the COVID-19 disruption, the legislature has gone into recess until April 13 at the earliest. While the legislature is on recess, The Climate Center continues to analyze the bills that were introduced in February, and is in the process of determining positions on many of them. Below are several, but not all, of the key bills we are tracking. For a complete list of the 112 bills we are currently tracking in 2020, click HERE. Our next update will be published here on April 9. Please send updates, suggestions, corrections to


Assembly Bills

AB 345 (Muratsuchi) SUPPORT – This bill will, if enacted, establish regulations to protect public health and safety near oil and gas extraction facilities,  including a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors such as schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, residences, hospitals, and health clinics. See The Climate Center’s Letter of Support. STATUS: In the Senate. Read first time. Sent to the Senate Rules Committee for assignment to a policy committee.


AB 1839 (Bonta) WATCH – The “Green New Deal” bill. Introduced on January 6, this bill would create the California Green New Deal Council with a specified membership appointed by the Governor. The bill would require the California Green New Deal Council to submit a specified report to the Legislature no later than January 1, 2022. So far the plan is scant on specifics including how goals will be met or how much the State will pay to meet those goals. STATUS: Introduced in January 6. No committee assignment yet. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.  The Climate Center is still assessing the bill and has not yet taken a position.

AB 1847 (Levine) WATCH – This bill would authorize the CPUC (contingent on the Commission finding that an electrical corporation is not complying with State law, rules, or regulations) to appoint a public administrator to the electrical corporation for a period not to exceed 180 days. The bill would vest the public administrator with oversight authority over the electrical corporation’s activities that impact public safety. See the bill author’s factsheet. STATUS: In the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee. No hearing date set.

AB 2145 (Ting) WATCH – This bill would state the intent of the legislature to enact legislation to reform the electric vehicle charging infrastructure approval process employed by the CPUC to help ensure that by 2030 California will safely install enough EV charging ports to meet the demand through public and private investment.


AB 2689 (Kalra) Likely Support. – This bill updates Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) confidentiality provisions to allow a broader range of market experts to participate in complex IOU cost recovery proceedings and supports California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) oversight to protect customers from unreasonable or unjustified IOU rate increases. California IOU electric generation rates have increased 49% since 2013. Between 2008 and 2018, IOU customer rates doubled from $29.3 billion to $59.3 billion per year. AB 2689 would result in greater IOU accountability and improved consumer protection, safety, and affordability. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.
AB 2789 (Kamlager) WATCH – This bill would appropriate $1,500,000 and require the CPUC, in consultation with the CA Energy Commission, to request the California Council on Science and Technology to undertake and complete a study, as specified, relative to electrical grid outages and cost avoidance resulting from deployment of eligible renewable energy resources, battery storage systems, and demand response technologies. The bill would require the PUC to report the results of the study to the Legislature by January 1, 2022. STATUS: Awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee.
AB 3014 (Muratsuchi) WATCH – This bill aims to improve the reliability of California electric supply by reforming the State’s resource adequacy (RA) program. Specifically, this bill creates the Central Reliability Authority (CRA), a non-profit public benefit corporation, to purchase residual RA needed to meet state requirements while still allowing load-serving entities (LSEs), such as Community Choice Agencies (CCAs), to maintain their procurement autonomy. The newly created CRA also reduces costly RA purchases currently undertaken by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and greatly enhances the RA market. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.

AB 3021 (Ting) SUPPORT – This bill would appropriate $300,000,000 per fiscal year in the 2020–21, 2021–22, and 2022–23 fiscal years from the General Fund to the California Energy Commission to administer a program to provide resiliency grant funding and technical assistance to local educational agencies for the installation of energy storage systems. STATUS: Double-referred to Education and Natural Resources committees.


AB 3251 (Bauer-Kahan) WATCH – This bill would require that charging of energy storage systems be treated as load in calculations for demand response programs, and that capacity from energy storage systems installed on the customer side of the meter be allowed to be aggregated for purposes of determining resource adequacy capacity; and electricity exported to the grid from the customer side of the meter be allowed to count toward the capacity obligations of load-serving entities. STATUS: In Assembly, referred to Asm Energy Committee.


Senate Bills

SB 45 (Allen, et al) SUPPORT – Dubbed the “Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020.” This is a proposed $5.51 billion general obligation bond to be placed on the November 3, 2020 statewide general election. Specifically, $570 million will be made available for climate resiliency initiatives including microgrids, distributed generation, storage systems, in-home backup power, and community resiliency centers such as cooling centers, clean air centers, hydration stations, and emergency shelters. STATUS: Passed out of Senate, in the Assembly, held at the desk.


SB 378 (Wiener) WATCH – Would establish customer and local government protections related to Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) incidents. Specifically, the bill requires IOUs to provide annual reports to the Wildfire Safety Division within the CPUC on the condition of their electrical equipment and provide maintenance logs to assess fire safety risk. The bill also requires the CPUC to develop procedures for consumers and local governments to recover costs from IOUs accrued during PSPS events, improves PSPS notification procedures, and makes IOUs subject to civil fines if the CPUC determines that the IOU failed to act in a reasonable and prudent manner. STATUS: In the Assembly, pending committee referral.

SB 774 (Stern) WATCH – SB 774 would require IOUs to collaborate with the State’s Office of Emergency of Services and others to identify where back-up electricity sources may provide increased electrical distribution grid resiliency and would allow the IOUs to file applications with the CPUC to invest in, and deploy, microgrids to increase resiliency. Concerns focus on too much control being placed in the hands of the IOUs over microgrid development when other LSEs and stakeholders can and should play a role. STATUS: In the Assembly committee process with no committee assignment and no hearing date.


SB 917 (Wiener) WATCH – This bill renames the California Consumer Energy and Conservation Financing Authority and via eminent domain takes control of PG&E to create the Northern California Energy Utility District and a public benefit corporation, Northern California Energy Utility Services, to carry out day to day operations. The key provision of the bill that is relevant to Community Choice Energy is: “10623: The authority of a community choice aggregator to provide electric service within the service territory of the district shall remain as if the district were an electrical corporation.” STATUS: Triple-referred to Senate Energy, Govt & Finance, and Judiciary Committees.
SB 947 (Dodd) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission to evaluate financial performance-based incentives and performance-based metric tracking to identify mechanisms that may serve to better align electrical corporation operations, expenditures, and investments with public benefit goals. STATUS: In the Senate Energy & Utilities Committee.
SB 1215 (Stern) – SB 1215, the “California Emergency Services Act” establishes the Office of Emergency Services in the office of the Governor and provides that the office is responsible for the state’s emergency and disaster response services for natural, technological, or manmade disasters and emergencies. Creates a grant program for microgrids. STATUS: In Senate, double-referred to the Governmental Organization and Energy Committees.
SB 1240 (Skinner) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator, to identify and evaluate options for transforming the electrical corporations’ (Investor Owned Utilities’) distribution grids into more open access platforms that would allow local governments and other third parties to participate more easily in grid activities, as provided. The bill would require the commission to update the identification and evaluation at least once every two years. The bill would require the commission, beginning January 1, 2022, and biennially thereafter, to submit to the Legislature a report on the identification and evaluation of options. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: In Senate – referred to Senate Energy Committee.
SB 1258 (Stern) WATCH – Titled the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act, this bill would enact the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act to require the California Infrastructure Bank (IBank), in consultation with specified agencies to administer the Climate Catalyst Revolving Fund, which the bill would establish to provide financial assistance to eligible climate catalyst projects. STATUS: In the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.
SB 1314 (Dodd) SUPPORT – SB 1314, the Community Energy Resilience Act of 2020, would require the Strategic Growth Council to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. The bill would set forth guiding principles for plan development, including equitable access to reliable energy, as provided, and integration with other existing local planning documents. The bill would require a plan to, among other things, ensure a reliable electricity supply is maintained at critical facilities and identify areas most likely to experience a loss of electrical service. The bill would require the council to establish a stakeholder review board to provide statewide oversight for purposes of the grant program. The bill would require a local government, as a condition of receiving grant funding, to submit its plan and a report of project expenditures to the stakeholder review board within six months of completing the plan. The bill would require the stakeholder review board to annually report specified information about the grant program to the Legislature. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: Double-referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committees.

Op-ed: California has a long way to go on climate policy

By Jacques Leslie, Los Angeles Times


  • California’s cap-and-trade program alone won’t be sufficient to reach the state’s goals, including its mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
  • Energy Innovation, a San Francisco think tank, spent more than two years developing a computer model called an Energy Policy Simulator to measure the efficacy of various policies for reaching the state’s 2030 goals. The model has six proposals that would generate $21 billion in net economic and social benefits over the next decade
  • Four of Energy Innovation’s six proposals would strengthen existing policies, including increasing the cap-and-trade program’s carbon price floor from its current impotent level of $16.68 per ton of carbon emissions. A recent World Bank report recommended a $40 to $80 price range.
  • The computer modelers recommend combining multiple strategies and building on existing mandates, including:
    • Requiring 70% carbon-free electricity by 2030 (a 10% increase from current law)
    • Increasing the state’s vehicle standard from 5 million to 7.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030
    • Requiring that 80% of new cars sold in 2030 are electric
    • Accelerating building electrification, including replacing residential natural gas space and water heaters with electric heat pumps
  • New initiatives are also needed such as a zero-emission standard for heat used in industrial processing, which would force the carbon-intensive cement industry to decarbonize

The Climate Center follows key legislation in California to advocate for the support and funding of key climate legislation for rapid decarbonization.

Report warns climate change could become ‘catastrophic’ global, national security threat

by Rebecca Klar, The Hill


  • In a report released by the National Security, Military and Intelligence Panel of the Center of Climate and Security, a nonpartisan security policy institute, national security and intelligence experts warn that climate change could become a “catastrophic” threat to security and recommended quick action to be taken to mitigate risks
  • The report calls for quickly reducing and phasing out global greenhouse gas emissions
  • Threats could come about rapidly, destabilizing the regions and relationships on which U.S. and international security depend
  • The most fragile parts of the world are most at risk, but all regions face serious implications

In our Rapid Decarbonization campaign, The Climate Center advocates for a formal California State commitment by 2022 to 80% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions and net negative emissions by 2030 for a climate-safe future.

Read more:

climate activists

How to deliver speed and scale greenhouse gas reductions

by Ann Hancock, Chief Strategist and Co-founder, The Climate Center

Imagine that we tackle the climate crisis in a way that actually turns things around fast.

Averting climate disaster depends on the climate movement becoming much more powerful and effective, and this depends on climate advocates and leaders aligning and collaborating around an overarching strategy.

The overarching strategy described below is the “how” that complements The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California-Rapid Decarbonization Campaign, the “what.”

For years, The Climate Center has been developing an overarching strategy for climate action, also known as a theory of change. We’ve had hundreds of conversations with activists, strategists, and experts, and read thousands of articles on the topic.

We searched for other overarching strategies, and are surprised by how few exist. Some explanations we heard for this lack are:

  • The climate movement shouldn’t have an overarching strategy. We need all-of-the-above solutions because we don’t know what will work.
  • The issue is too urgent to take time to figure out an overarching strategy. Instead, we need action.
  • Climate leaders already have their own strategies, and aren’t interested in an overarching strategy.
  • Everyone already knows what’s needed, so we don’t need an explicit, overarching strategy.

Although these reasons are true to varying degrees, taking a broader view, we can see that the climate movement has countless approaches, many of which will have little impact on the crisis anytime soon.

With extremely limited time, attention, and money to avert climate catastrophe, we cannot afford to waste effort on approaches that are ineffective. We need to harness and focus our resources to reach the critical level that leads to massive impact. 

A classic cartoon pokes fun at relying on faith and fuzzy thinking rather than an explicit, evidence-based approach to solve a problem.

Reprinted with permission 

Using the following frame for an overarching climate strategy, we find general consensus that massive behavior change is needed to produce speed and scale GHG reduction to move toward our vision. 

But what strategy causes massive, rapid behavior change for speed and scale GHG reductions? 

The overarching strategy developed by The Climate Center follows. The evidence and examples we’ve gathered, and the climate action veterans with whom we’ve shared this strategy have affirmed the validity of this model. 

Theory of change

  • Change is non-linear. For example, positive feedback such as political wins can strengthen and increase the ranks of activists who then bring about more political wins.
  • All models are wrong; some are useful. At some point, a system will behave differently from the model of the system.

To ensure the accountability and effectiveness of the implementation of this model, a tracking system assesses results to provide feedback and adjustments.

Our overarching strategy focuses on policy which alters rules that govern the economy, energy, business, infrastructure, and transportation. To illustrate the importance of ensuring favorable policies, consider that in the U.S., businesses spent $3.4 billion on lobbying in 2018. 

Activists: The Propelling Force

The energy for policy change and for electing representatives who vote for the desired policies comes from activists, whether local elected leaders, business people, scientists, academics, philanthropists, trade organizations, farmers, small or large groups of committed individuals, or coalitions.

Evidence from social movements shows that campaigns that achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population succeeded in their goals. Thus, a small, focused group can create the necessary conditions for change to occur in the larger group. 

Where there’s a way, there’s a will

A persistent problem in the climate movement is that no core constituency with a concentrated interest in policy change exists. Increasing numbers of Americans are very worried about climate change, suggesting that a large latent force exists that is ready to be tapped and engaged in advocating for favorable climate policy.

However, this latent force lacks a clear path by which their actions will have an impact, especially when faced with the myriad answers to the question, what can I do? More than “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” we assert “where there’s a way, there’s a will.”

Offering opportunities for engagement and clear policy items to support will attract and retain the large numbers who care about this issue. The more we grow, focus, and mobilize the 3.5 percent, the more we create a virtuous cycle, and the greater our impact. Convincing non-believers is unnecessary because the critical mass of 3.5 percent can be gathered without them. The remaining 96.5 percent are included at a later point in our overarching strategy.

This overarching strategy depends on climate advocates and leaders who initiate, guide, and support implementation of the strategy. Together we can inspire, recruit, focus, train, and sustain an exponentially-growing body of climate activists who can advocate for evermore powerful solutions. We can identify the policymakers and the policies to support. We can track results, make adjustments, and hold people accountable.

More about our overarching strategy here.

We welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions – 

Presidential candidates 2020- climate and environmental rankings

Below are some resources highlighting how the presidential candidates rank on climate action and other environmental issues.


Greenpeace tells you the stance of the candidates on climate-related issues and also provides a platform where you can contact the candidates to tell them that you care about climate action.


National Resource Defense Council

On this website, each candidate’s profile is organized into four categories:

  1. Climate plans released by candidates (if any);
  2. Overview of how the candidate’s website talks about climate change;
  3. Public statements by the candidate on climate change; and
  4. Candidate’s history on climate action.


The Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund evaluated each candidate on four key environmental issue areas: saving wildlife, protecting public lands, ensuring environmental justice and ending the climate crisis.


Vote Climate U.S. PAC

In 2018, Vote Climate U.S. PAC developed a national, climate change Voter’s Guide, giving every incumbent and challenger for a seat in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate a “Climate Calculation”– a score for voters to take to the polls in November. Their Climate Calculations range from Climate Hero to Climate Zero and include incumbents and challengers. Vote Climate U.S. PAC identifies incumbents and challengers for top priority support, with the goal of increasing support in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to pass a federal carbon fee. 



Governor’s climate budget: one step forward, one step back

Governor Gavin Newsom recently released his proposed state budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 and it includes some important line items for decarbonization and climate resilience. The governor has proposed $12.5 billion over five years to boost climate resilience, curb greenhouse gas pollution, and tackle the climate change-driven wildfire crisis. The total California state proposed budget for just this year is $222 billion

While we are grateful that the Governor has highlighted climate action, the proposed climate budget spread out of 5 years does not provide needed to enact rapid decarbonization.. However, rapid decarbonization as required by the science means that we will need a lot more investment in the near term. We need funds to support carbon sequestration, sustainable mobility, and other initiatives that can help us achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and net carbon negativity by 2035. 

We look forward to working with the governor and you, our partners, to let the Governor know that there’s support to accelerate decarbonization in California in the next two years.

Resiliency planning line items

The Governor’s proposal calls for financial support for local governments to complete resiliency planning- a core principle of The Climate Center’s Advanced Community Energy (ACE) Initiative.

The Climate Center and several other organizations have been urging the Governor’s Office to create a budget line item that can help local governments plan for future power outages and help meet their climate goals. Many of the most effective strategies for decarbonization, equity, and resilience are within the realm of municipal planning.

The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $50 million one-time General Fund line item to support additional preparedness measures that bolster community resiliency. The Newsom Administration is also proposing a $4.75 billion climate resilience bond that includes funding for “planning activities to address community-specific climate risks and develop climate resilience plans.” If approved by both the Senate and Assembly, this bond would be before voters on the November 2020 ballot.

We are grateful to Governor Newsom for embracing the important role of local government in energy and climate planning and allocating resources to resilience.

On the path to decarbonization

The budget includes a Climate Catalyst Fund of $1 billion over four years for a new program that would provide low-interest loans for emerging technologies and projects aimed at greening parts of California’s economy — especially agriculture, recycling, and transportation. This fund could, for example, incentivize farmers and ranchers to install efficient irrigation and upgrade diesel engines because those changes have a good return on investment.

Healthy soils and clean cars funding cuts

The Healthy Soils Program: Down from $28 million in the previous budget, the Governor is proposing $18 million for the Healthy Soils Program, which provides grants to farmers and ranchers who adopt new soil management practices that increase soil carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall. Grants to reduce methane emissions in the dairy sector would also be cut for the second year in a row from $32 million to $20 million The California Climate & Agriculture Network has come out against these budget cuts, citing their popularity and crucial role in sequestering carbon.

The Air Resources Board’s funding for Low Carbon Transportation: Governor Newsom’s budget proposes to cut the Air Resources Board’s funding for Low Carbon Transportation from $485 million this year to only $350 million in 2020-‘21. This money goes to put the cleanest trucks, buses, and cars on the road, especially in disadvantaged communities, and these types of investments create jobs in California. In fact, electric vehicles were the state’s second-largest export last year. The Coalition for Clean Air has come out against Newsom’s proposed cuts, citing the critical role that the program has in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for roughly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California.

The Climate Center is also strongly opposed to these cuts. For rapid decarbonization we need more funding, not less.

Please take action today and tell Governor Newsom your concerns about the budget.

The fifth-largest economy in the world must prioritize rapid decarbonization

California is the fifth-largest economy in the world. The state’s policies and budget priorities have long and deep implications for the millions of people living here. California’s climate actions also reach far beyond its borders– through international trade partnerships in myriad industries, including agriculture, energy, high tech, transportation, manufacturing, and more. Rapid decarbonization must be our highest priority.

We thank the Governor for his commitment to addressing climate resilience and know the devil is in the details. We know that we must protect these allocations to ensure these efforts and others on rapid decarbonization initiatives move forward– including sustainable mobility, carbon sequestration through healthy lands, a clean, affordable, resilient and equitable electricity system, robust green financing mechanisms, and more.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat from New Jersey, (New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen) found on

New Jersey executive order leverages land use rules to control where and what developers can build

by Tracey Tully, The New York Times


  • A New Jersey democrat has introduced legislation that requires new building projects to account for climate resiliency and mitigating environmental impacts such as GHG emissions in order to receive government approval
  • The state is currently experiencing sinking, accelerated sea-level rise, and flooding along its 130-mile coastline
  • The introduction of this legislation is the first of its kind within the US and hopes to keep New Jersey’s emissions goals on target

The Climate Center aims to enact by 2025 the bold policies required by science to put California on track for decarbonization by 2030.

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California now has 1 million solar roofs. Are 1 million batteries next?

For Clovis Unified School District outside Fresno, the economics of solar power have been too good to pass up.

And for the solar industry, the district’s investments in sun-generated electricity have helped fuel a milestone 14 years in the making.

Clovis Unified has installed solar systems covering parking lots and play areas at 47 of the 52 school sites it operates — and more installations are planned. Five high schools also have lithium-ion batteries, which store energy for use after the sun goes down.

Read more:

Are Republicans Politically Vulnerable on Climate Change?

by Barry Vesser |  August 28, 2015

The EPA’s recently-released Clean Power Plan has been taking
a lot of flak from the Right. Although this is unsurprising, Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell’s vehement opposition contradicts the values of most
Americans and is not rooted in traditional conservative values or Republican
political strengths. In the past, the Republican Party stood for national
security and economic growth. But their views on climate put those values at

The Department of Defense, last year, came out with its
Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap to address the threat that climate change
poses to national security. And it’s hard to deny that the economy of the
future will be driven by green technology. But most Republicans in Congress seem
to have been hijacked by science deniers and the fossil fuel lobby.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan will require
the electricity sector’s greenhouse gas emissions to drop 32 percent from 2005
levels by 2030. The Plan expects renewable energy to rise to 28 percent of the
grid’s capacity by 2030 and coal to drop to 27 percent.  States have until 2022 to meet interim
targets set up under the Plan.

This first national plan for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions is a step in the right direction, but is nowhere
near aggressive enough
. It does not meet the scientific imperative as
described by the world’s foremost authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate

Mitch McConnell, however, asserts that this
measured plan is potentially illegal. About the proposed regulations, he says, “They’re
projected to cost billions. They threaten to ship good middle-class jobs
overseas. They’ll likely make it harder to maintain reliable sources of energy
to meet demand. They’ll also likely result in higher energy bills for those who
can least afford them, potentially raising electricity rates by double digits
for the people I represent.” McConnell has even encouraged states to resist
implementing the regulations.

Of course, McConnell’s assertions fly in the face of the
reality that we are experiencing first hand in Sonoma County. Community Choice
Energy, as evidenced by Sonoma Clean Power, reduces people’s rates, keeps more
money in local economies, and significantly reduces greenhouse gases.

McConnell’s stance could be written off as parochial
politics. He represents Kentucky, the third largest coal-producing state. Coal
fuels 92% of Kentucky’s net electricity generation. In 2013-14 McConnell
received $271,250 from the coal lobby.

But McConnell’s views match those of other Republicans in
Congress. In general, Republicans
receive orders of magnitude more campaign contributions from the coal industry

compared with their Democrat colleagues, particularly over the last five years.

Coal is on the decline and is not likely to come back,
regardless of what happens with the Clean Power Plan.  In a recent op-ed
Michael Bloomberg
explained, “…King Coal is dying of natural causes:
Market forces, technological advances, and public demands for clean air and
climate action have combined to make alternative sources of energy more
financially attractive. The price of new wind power, for example, is lower than
that of coal in most parts of the country.”

Republicans’ allegiance to fossil fuels may hurt them in the
next election cycle. They appear to be vulnerable on two issues that are
usually strengths for their party, the economy and national security.

Renewable energy is coming, ready or not. In many places in
the country it is at cost parity with fossil fuel energy. In some places it is
cheaper, and the cost of renewables is likely to keep declining over the coming
years as the industry continues to scale up.

California provides the best example where investment in
renewables drives economic growth. California has the most aggressive policies
in the U.S. on carbon reduction and is on track to provide 33% of the state’s
power from renewable sources by 2020.  Contrary
to McConnell’s claim that this will be a drag on economic growth, the clean
energy sector of renewables and energy efficiency is growing jobs at 5%
a year in California
, twice as fast as state average job growth, and three
times the national job growth rate.

The solar industry alone now employees two times the number
of people that the coal industry does nationally, with plenty of room to
grow.  In terms of new generation
capacity, solar has significantly outpaced coal the last two years. This shift needs
to be encouraged for the U.S. to keep up with overseas competitors. China,
India, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, South Africa, and
many other countries are making massive investments in renewable energy.

So McConnell’s strategy of protecting a dirty and dying
industry and not embracing the sector that has the most potential for economic
growth in the next decade will likely not serve his party well.

The national security establishment has been warning about
the need to address climate change for years. In 2007 the Department of Defense
issued a report entitled “National Security and
the Threat of Climate Change” that concluded that climate change will pose a
serious threat to America’s national security, especially by creating
instability in already volatile regions.

In July of this year the Defense
Department issued another report
to Congress on the threat from climate change. It stated, "The
Department of Defense sees

climate change as a present
security threat, not strictly a long-term risk. We are already observing the
impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and
communities, including in the United States, and in the Arctic, Middle East, Africa,
Asia, and South America.”

conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the
nonpartisan research group Resources for the Future found that an
overwhelming majority of the American public, including half of Republicans,
support government action to curb climate change.

In a more recent
of key political swing states, 60% of people believe that we should
increase our efforts to combat climate change.

If Republicans continue to ignore the national security
warnings on climate change from non-partisan, career military people, they seem
politically vulnerable. All Democrat
presidential front-runners
have a climate action policy. Contrast this with
the last Presidential election cycle when climate was not mentioned in the
debates. It appears that this time will be different.

Note to Reader: I normally avoid writing anything that could be
construed as partisan, but the recent political rhetoric around the Clean Power
Plan, when we have a robust and growing clean global energy industry, seems
disconnected from reality and requires a response.

My father is a retired high-ranking military officer, my godfather was the
Director of the National Security Administration – so I grew up in a culture
that prized rational debate and a hard-nosed assessment of realities.  When I attended my parents 50th
wedding anniversary several years ago, held in the officers’ club and full of
retired and active duty military, I was surprised that when my father
introduced me to the assemblage as working on climate protection, I got an
ovation. I shouldn’t have been surprised. These are people who put duty to
country above politics, they know the science, they knew their internal
assessment on this issue and were glad someone was taking the threat
seriously.  It is high time we move
beyond self-serving opinions and let prudent action based on rational analysis
guide the national debate about how to respond to climate change. It will be a
heavy lift, the likes of which we have never seen before. So as Dad would say:
“let’s get on with it!”

Barry Vesser is Deputy Director for The Climate Center and coordinates the Center’s Business for Clean Energy Program.