Drastic changes are needed if California is to win the climate-change challenge

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When Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his keynote speech at the recent California Economic Summit in Fresno, he failed to say two keywords: climate change. Conversely, he said a lot about our economy while at a climate change summit held in New York just weeks earlier:

“The [California] economy is growing; a fully functioning cap-and-trade program; the most audacious low-carbon green growth goals in the United States of America. There’s nothing left for me to sign — it’s 100 percent across the board, in every category,” he boasted at Climate Week NYC held in support of the U.N. Climate Action Summit in late September.

Our Future
Valley Climate Activists greeted attendees of the California Economic Summit in Fresno on Sept. 27.

Speaking on the eve of wildfire season, Newsom seemed to be tempting fate itself. Conflagrations were soon exploding around the state as if an invading armada were shelling it: Sandalwood, Caples, Saddleridge, Kincade, Tick, Getty, Easy. People fled for their lives — some died — in war zones of flame, smoke, sirens, panic and confusion.

And if Newsom needed another call to arms, two days before the first wildfire hit, San Francisco-based nonprofit think tank Next 10 issued its 11th annual California Green Innovation Index. The report warns, “California will meet its 2030 climate targets more than three decades late — 2061… if the average rate of emissions reductions from the past year holds steady.”

But California and the world must cut emissions by half before 2030. If not, tipping points will be crossed that set in motion irreversible, ever-increasing releases of naturally stored carbon and methane, according to the October U.N.October U.N. report on a 1.5 C increase in global average temperature.

Yet there stood Newsom in Fresno on Nov. 8, one year after the Camp Fire, the deadliest, most destructive fire in state history with at least 85 victims, talking about the state’s economy without once mentioning climate change.

Consequently, the state government’s climate change programs are rooted in outdated strategies warped by fossil fuel lobbyists like former state legislators Henry T. Perea of Fresno, now with Western States Petroleum Association, and Chevron’s Michael Rubio of Bakersfield.

When pressed by The Bee and KFCF radio afterwards, Newsom explained California is now in the implementation phase of its climate change response, echoing his New York remarks.

Indeed we are.

California’s cap-and-trade program, dominated by oil and gas interests, encompasses 450 businesses emitting 85% of the state’s greenhouse gases and along with two Canadian provinces comprises the world’s fourth largest exchange for carbon credits. Since 2013 it has generated $11.9 billion for reduction efforts.

High speed rail has received a fifth so far — $2.5 billion — but the concrete-intensive project will never offset its carbon footprint, and its construction spews asthma-irritating dust and cancer-causing diesel exhaust continually on West Fresno residents already hard hit by industrial polluters.

Another $2.2 billion has gone toward low carbon transportation. Primarily for alternative fuel programs, these largely serve to extend dependence on fossil fuels and combustion technologies. For example, more than $800 million is slated for a dairy methane program best described as the HSR of agriculture: it offers dubious benefits but negatively impacts vulnerable rural communities, according to an April working paper from Fresno-based Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

Finally, in late September the state Air Resources Board approved the California Tropical Forest Standard, a potential carbon credit source for fossil fuel companies, over the objections of indigenous opponents from around the world who decried the move as “carbon colonization” of their natural resources.

Newsom must address these policies’ shortcomings head on. Because, as the Next 10 report lays bare, cap-and-trade and other market-based solutions won’t work in time. They have not worked in time.

Unfortunately, Newsom and the rest of his generation now in power came of age in an era of market-as-solution, government-as-problem philosophy. Since the 1980s, most California politicians have drunk deeply from that Reagan-with-a-twist-of-Clinton policy cocktail; with it comes considerable financial backing from industry, particularly oil and gas extractors.

Consequently, the state government’s climate change programs are rooted in outdated strategies warped by fossil fuel lobbyists like former state legislators Henry T. Perea of Fresno, now with Western States Petroleum Association, and Chevron’s Michael Rubio of Bakersfield.

The urgent response appropriate to the scale of our climate emergency will remain out of reach unless Newsom and the state Legislature change direction dramatically. To push them, youth climate strikes will be held on Black Friday. People of all ages will challenge the status quo, fighting against its genocidal outcomes.

Kevin Hall is a Fresno resident and graduate of Fresno State. He formerly reported on farm issues for trade publications and is now an air-quality activist.

Climate Strike, Nov. 8

MEDIA ADVISORY , NOVEMBER 7, 2019

WHO: Valley Climate Activists, Contact: Kevin Hall, 559-301-5537

WHAT: CLIMATE STRIKE

WHEN: FRIDAY, NOV. 8, 10:00 AM

WHERE: SELLAND ARENA ENTRANCE, 700 M ST.

“Governor Newsom, Our Future or Fossil Fuels”

Fresno residents to protest local pollution impacts of Gov. Newsom’s ‘low-carbon green growth’ 

Governor Gavin Newsom will speak to hundreds of people from around the valley and state Friday morning at the California Economic Summit about our future prospects, but not a single session at the summit is dedicated to the issue of climate change.

“The failure of the governor and other officials to highlight climate change as the central concern of long-term economic planning is a failure of leadership,” said Kevin Hall, organizer of Valley Climate Activists. “Climate change and the state’s climate change spending are having profound negative impacts on our economy and health now.”

Valley Climate Activists wants to see pollution stopped at the source, an end to market mechanisms, and a cleanup of sacrifice zones like those found throughout southern Fresno and rural communities.

“The State of California is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in greenhouse gas reduction funds on High Speed Rail construction and in subsidies for biomass burning and mega-dairy expansions in our city and county,” Hall said. “All are highly polluting. All are funded by cap-and-trade, low carbon fuel standard credits and other mechanisms. Now the governor is threatening to pour hundreds of billions in state pension fund investments into such dangerous programs.”

“That bold action continued on Friday, as I announced our plan to leverage the state’s $700 billion pension investments, transportation systems and purchasing power to strengthen climate resiliency, with a goal to align our state investments toward carbon-neutral technology.”

— Gov. Gavin Newsom, Newsweek, Sept. 23, 2019

But “Carbon neutral” means continued pollution in a place like Fresno and either reduced pollution or protection of natural carbon reserves somewhere else — not here. The people most impacted by all of these projects live in the lowest income, most vulnerable and highly polluted neighborhoods of Fresno and surrounding rural communities. It’s a climate injustice. Lives are being sacrificed.

The solution is to stop pollution at the source, put an end “sacrifice zones” and to stop relying on market mechanisms, but Gov. Newsom believes otherwise:

“The economy is growing, a fully functioning cap-and-trade program, the most audacious low-carbon green growth goals in the United States of America. There’s nothing left for me to sign — it’s 100 percent across the board, in every category.”

— Gov. Gavin Newsom, Opening Remarks, Climate Week NYC, Sept. 23, 2019

Gavin Newsom is horribly wrong to think California’s climate change plan is fully in place and working well. Just this week the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review reported that “California won’t reach its 2030 decarbonization goals (cutting emissions to 40% below 1990 levels) until 2061—and wouldn’t hit its 2050 targets (80% below 1990 levels) until 2157.”

The state and valley face devastating economic consequences if these targets are missed.

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Kevin Hall

559-301-5537
“The only way to deal with exploiters is to terrorize the bastards.”
–Phil Burton

The way to ease ‘climate anxiety’ is to get active and make changes for the coming future

(This article first appeared in The Fresno Bee on Aug. 23, 2019)

By Kevin Hall

Public concern over climate change is surging. Perhaps it’s due to the ravages of fire, flood, hurricane, drought, tornado, etc. Maybe it’s that the first generation of people facing a truly uncertain future is now entering adulthood. Media coverage has certainly increased.

FCC colloquium Continue reading The way to ease ‘climate anxiety’ is to get active and make changes for the coming future

A Quick Note to Mike Karbassi

By Kevin Hall

Mike Karbassi was recently elected to the Fresno City Council to represent District 2 in Northwest Fresno. His Twitter praise for an inferior editorial by District 5 councilor Luis Chavez, home to most of Fresno’s heavy industry, led me to be tweet back at him, and he kindly replied (below). My longer response wouldn’t fit easily into tweets, so this: Continue reading A Quick Note to Mike Karbassi

Jim Costa’s Primary Concern

July 3, 2019

By Kevin Hall

FRESNO-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old political wunderkind who introduced the Green New Deal congressional resolution earlier this year, made a telling candidate endorsement in late May.

The Democratic Socialist from Queens, who a year ago successfully primaried long-time incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, announced she is backing a fellow progressive Latina. Like Continue reading Jim Costa’s Primary Concern

Climate Politics radio broadcast 4.26.19

(Climate Politics is broadcast on the second and fourth Fridays of each month on KFCF 88.1FM in Fresno. ) LISTEN HERE ON SOUNDCLOUD to the April 26, 2019 show.

INTRODUCTION: Good afternoon and welcome to a special edition Climate Politics. This show is dedicated to the premise that if we hope to avoid climate change’s worst impacts, then we need to fix our political climate, from Fresno to D.C. and everyplace in between.

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Rev. B.T. Lewis, Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, Fresno

And it’s impossible in this country, and certainly this town and valley, to discuss our politics without grounding them in the context of the systemic racism that has shaped every institution, policy, and practice in both the public and private sector. Continue reading Climate Politics radio broadcast 4.26.19

Oil Slick on the Blue Wave

NEW! Check out the discussion on the Climate Politics radio show here (soundcloud).

May 4, 2019

By Kevin Hall

The headline reads, “API Plans Major Disinformation Campaign: Industry opponents of a treaty to fight global warming have drafted an ambitious proposal to spend millions of dollars to convince the public that the environmental accord is based on shaky science.” Continue reading Oil Slick on the Blue Wave