Polluting special interests have stifled progress in Copenhagen
and Washington, but Californians and others around the globe have
fought back. The shift to a new economy, based on a clean energy
future, will come from the ground up. California shows this
grassroots change is possible.
When the Copenhagen summit on climate change failed to reach
agreement last December, many thought it was the beginning of the
end for the fight against global warming. But I can report nearly a
year later that the Green Revolution is alive and robust in states,
provinces, and localities across the world, starting in California.
Over the last several months an epic battle has played out right
here in our state leading up to the elections. It was a battle of
the old economy versus the new; of David versus Goliath. The same
set of polluting special interests that blocked international action
in Copenhagen and strangled environmental legislation in Washington
descended on California to try to overturn our landmark legislation -
Assembly Bill 32 - to curb carbon emissions and promote a clean
The Monitor's View: California vote on Proposition 23 can set the
pace on global warming
They rightly feared that, as the world's eighth largest economy,
California's size and global presence has the clout to shape
environmental change around the world. We may only be a little spot
on the planet, but California, as a bellwether state and outpost of
innovation, has the influence of an entire continent. They thought
that if they could crush the green momentum in California like they
did in Copenhagen and Washington, they could take any serious action
on energy and the climate off the public agenda.
They spent scores of millions trying to convince Californians
that a vote for the environment was a vote against jobs, that a
clean energy future would just be too costly. Of course, they cared
little about jobs and more about fattening their wallets by peddling
The costs of dirty energy
In the end, Californians rejected their cynical ploy by a huge 22
percent margin. Despite the propaganda, Californians were aware that
green technology is the only area of our economy creating new jobs
right now -- 10 times more jobs since 2005 than any other sector.
And Californians know the true costs of dirty energy. They know
that 19,000 people are dying in California alone because of smog-
related illness, costing many millions in health care. They are
burdened by the costs of wars to secure foreign energy supplies. No
one wants to fight another war over oil. Enough already.
So Californians pushed back. We formed a tremendous bipartisan
coalition - environmentalists, venture capitalists, health groups,
businesses big and small, unions, farmers, Democrats, and
Republicans. Everyone came together. Never before have voters had
such a clear and distinct choice over whether to maintain the status
quo of pollution and war or fight climate change and shift toward a
new economy built on clean energy.
Californians lived up to their reputation of choosing the future
over the past. We delivered a message that failed to arrive in
Copenhagen or Washington: The environment is not for sale.
Grassroots global progress
While certainly proud about this demonstration of resolve, we
can't afford to gloat. The task ahead for the planet as a whole is
like pushing a boulder up a hill. What California's resolve shows is
that even if progress on climate change and clean energy is stymied
at the level of global governance or the nation-state, the "sub-
nationals" can still move ahead to build a critical mass from below. …