Revisiting California’s Recent Signing of Global Warming Legislation

California AB 32 cap-and-trade bill signed into law

Last week California Governor Arnold signed into law a “ground-breaking” to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

This weekend, a local news station did a follow-up report on the signing event, which took place on Treasure Island, with the San Francisco skyline as a backdrop. The question the report sought to answer was how all the heavy-hitters attending the ceremony arrived for the high profile proceedings.

We know that anyone as high up the political ladder as the governor of California arrives anywhere in a big, black SUV -laden motorcade (about 10 miles per gallon). Right behind are all the dignitaries driving to the mid-point of the Bay Bridge in the classic Lincoln Town Car (17 mpg).
Covering the event, including the the satellite link-up to British Prime Minister required a highly trained crew and a significant amount of equipment hauled in on trucks and Econoline vans – not much gas mileage there.

It wasn’t totally one-sided. There was a contingent of hybrid and other high-mileage vehicles; but the point is made.

Is it realistic,however, to expect Arnold – or any “head of state” – to start driving around in a fleet of Toyota Hybrids, or dignitaries in Honda Civics? I have already stated in this blog that there is plenty of hypocrisy for all to share. We’re have to accept that and keep moving forward. Paralysis only exacerbates the hypocrisy. None of us are perfect, and those that claim they are need to be watched very closely.

I am in favor of the idea of government taking positive action to help create a framework and overall structure in which to organize and quantify our efforts and progress in mitigating the threat of climate change. Of course, there is an obvious inclination for government to think of itself, with the help of technology, as the answer.

As my hair grows almost completely silver (albeit a little prematurely) I feel ever more convinced that the answer does not lie in an external government or a particulartechnology. Both are tools of the human mind and thus burdened with the shortcomings and limitations inherent in the human condition.
Even a cursory examination of history shows that real change needs to take root in the collective human psyche to have a real and sustained impact.
Technology follows the desires and aspirations of men, and government is, theoretically, in the service of the people. And so it is from individuals that solutions must first derive.
As we can see from the National Government, we can’t wait for the will to magically appear from on high before we begin to seriously address climate change and other environmental threats. It comes from the ground up.

I applaud the effort and vision of the California Governor and Legislature in taking a bipartisan jump off the “business as usual” cliff, inviting the rest of the world to follow. And yet, I am cautious. There is still too much talk of being saved by technology, instead of talking about the fundamental problem

In the meantime, I’ll remain diligent in the face of my own hypocrisy, chipping away at it as best I can. If enough people do at least that much, and hopefully more than that, then things may truly start to change.

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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