Just in this last week, we here in Santa Barbara got another reminder of the risks associated with human-caused climate change. The national weather service announced another heat wave for July, and we braced for the sweat. While we can’t always distinguish the precise level of human contribution to a specific heat wave, the broad signals are too strong to ignore.
California is warmer, about 2 degrees more than the average from 1949-2005, with an increasing rate of heat waves. A good amount of that average temperature uptick is in night-time low temperatures, which aren’t as low as they used to be and make heat waves more difficult to deal with. The severity levels of the most recent droughts have increased, and more precipitation is coming down in the state as rain rather than snow, leaving less snowpack and creating additional stress on water supplies in the state.
I could go on and on about these problems, their physical basis, and other risks to our communities and the natural world. But most Californians understand at least the basics, and don’t need to be further convinced that humanity’s greenhouse-gas emissions are playing a large role.
What we want to see are solutions.
This is where the legislators of California can inspire the members of the California community and get us thinking more about solutions and enacting them in our state. We’ve done it before. We put in our first clean electricity standard in 2002, requiring 20 percent renewables by 2017. And we’ve done that and are set to do even more. California has continually been a leader, enacting additional legislation to clean up our energy system.
Now, Senate Bill 100 requires 100 percent renewable and zero carbon electricity by 2045. This is an achievable goal. Utilities can get creative, and communities can get the right incentives in place. We can generate clean power, store it, and have a safe, reliable supply of electricity. It’s already achievable, and costs can only get lower as the necessity we enact leads to more invention.
The bill has already passed the Senate and is in motion in the Assembly. But the Assembly needs a final vote as one body, and Governor Brown needs to sign it into law.
Of course we need more in our toolkit of climate solutions, such as efficiency and smart design, sustainable transportation, and healthier diets with a lower carbon footprint, all of which could do quite a bit to reduce the greenhouse-gas pollution problem. And other states and countries across the world will need to develop and improve their own plans. But we as a state have an opportunity to send a signal of ambition, positivity, creativity, and knowhow to everyone else. Let’s continue our climate leadership. I urge our Assembly to pass SB 100.
Quentin Gee, PhD, is a lecturer in Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.