ORINDA, Calif. – There is a growing shift in the global warming controversy. Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish scientist and prominent climate skeptic who wrote the book The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2001, now calls for a $100 billion per year global warming investment, saying “Climate change is undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today.” In California, the question is not if, but how to combat the problem.
A recent editorial in the San Jose Mercury News urged a “No” vote on Proposition 23, the measure to suspend the landmark global warming law. Assembly Bill 32, passed in 2006, requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Prop. 23 would suspend the law until unemployment falls from 12.3 to 5.5 percent, which would probably be about as seismic a shift as far as Californian’s are concerned.
Jerry Brown claims that the key difference between himself and Meg Whitman is over Prop. 23, which he opposes and she supports. While that’s ridiculous given Brown’s ultra-liberal, professional politics career as opposed to Whitman’s billion-dollar success as former CEO of Silicon Valley’s eBay, their respective stances on the issue could be critical to California’s future economy.
Proponents say AB 32 will raise energy prices so much that businesses will be forced to lay off more workers or move out of state, so now is the wrong time to implement it. Because the opposition is led by oil companies who have donated millions to the campaign, and who stand to lose some of their unconscionable profits by having to clean up their act, that argument loses much credibility.
On the other hand, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla declared that: “Proposition 23 will kill markets and the single largest source of job growth in California in the last two years. Not only that, it’ll kill investment in the long term.”
Khosla was referring to the fact that in 2009, 40 percent of cleantech venture capital went to California, where some 12,000 companies with more than 500,000 employees are working on ways that could help businesses and consumers reduce energy consumption. Therefore, AB 32 is rapidly creating more jobs in California. If Proposition 23 passes, clean-energy investment, which is attracting billions of dollars, will come to a halt.
One frightening example has already occurred on the national stage. After the U.S. Senate talks on a similar national climate and energy bill collapsed, a Deutsche Bank executive told Reuters that it would pour most of its $7 billion investment money in clean energy into China and Western Europe. Said Kevin Parker, global head of asset management: “(Congress is) asleep at the wheel on climate change, asleep at the wheel on job growth, asleep at the wheel on this industrial revolution taking place in the energy industry.”
Fortunately, numerous Silicon Valley heavyweights have stepped up to protect the revolutionary law that California legislators wrote. Google, Apple, and other big tech companies oppose Prop. 23, as do green companies like Sunnyvale’s Serious Materials. Certain venture capitalists who are helping to bring in that investment money, such as John Doerr and Tom Steyer, have donated heavily to the “No” campaign.
While the political fight centers on job creation, which is absolutely essential to California’s future, I believe that is really missing the point. If even Bjorn Lomborg can recognize the incredible danger global warming presents, then we should be willing to sacrifice money, jobs, and even dinosaur companies in the effort to clean up our environment before it’s too late. Fortunately, it seems that doing the right thing and doing the economically sound thing for California go hand-in-hand.