Fireside Chat on Global Warming

Katy Grimes: Talk of record temperatures across the country did not make it into the panel discussion held by the Public Policy Institute of California on Friday, but discussion about the partisan divide on global warming did.

Discussion fueled by vastly different ideology on the subject of global warming and climate change, was on the agenda at the PPIC lunchtime event.

The PPIC conducted a recent survey of 2,500 adults about the perceived onset of global warming, Californians’ views on climate change and energy policy, perceptions of global warming, attitudes toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and preferences for specific emissions and energy policies. The survey was funded by the Hewlett Foundation.

The survey results were mostly divided along partisan lines with Democrats answering in the affirmative about global warming, Republicans disagreeing about the severity, and Independents on the fence (read the Full Report).

The survey findings report that that “most Californians” believe that “the effects of global warming have already begun.” However, remembering that the state of California has 38 million residents and only 2,500 were surveyed, the wording could and should have been different about the survey findings, specifying that of those surveyed, 61 percent to 54 percent believe “the effects of global warming have begun.”

The survey itself is not the news as much as the panel discussion held last Friday. Mark Baldassare, President of the PPIC introduced the PPIC as a “non profit and non-partisan” organization. And while Baldassare succeeded conducting the panel discussion in a fair and balanced manner, the very subject matter and questions asked of survey participants were not non-partisan.

The panel discussion was moderated by Dave Lesher, Associate Director of Government Affairs for the PPIC. Panel members were Bill Craven, the Chief Consultant to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, and John Kennedy, Senior Consultant on Natural Resources and Toxics for the Assembly Republican Caucus, both state legislative employees. Stuart Leavenworth, editorial board member at The Sacramento Bee, was supposed to be part of the panel but cancelled apparently the day of the event. Mark Baldassare filled in for Leavenworth.

The panel was asked to share their views and professional opinions about the survey findings. Immediately telling was Kennedy’s comment that the primary question missing from the survey was about costs associated with the implementation of environmental programs. Kennedy made clear that while he is a Republican, he and other Republicans want a clean environment but acknowledge that the costs associated with the regulations are staggering to businesses in the state, rendering Caifornia businesses non-competitive, across state lines.

The audience groaned collectively.

Craven was wildly supportive of AB 32, California’s global warming initiative, and said that green jobs are the fastest growing sector of the California economy. He spoke definitively against Proposition 23, the ballot initiative that would suspend AB 32’s implementation until the unemployment in the state drops back down to 5.5 percent from the current high of 12 percent and said, “Proposition 23 was really disguised as a… well, let’s just say that I’ll stop there.” And then he stopped talking.

The audience appeared to be mostly supportive of the implementation of environmental controls through AB 32, as heads nodded frequently to Craven’s remarks and shook “no” when Kennedy spoke. I sat next to a woman who practically said “amen” to Craven’s pro-environmental statements.

Kennedy responded to Craven’s comments and said, “5.5 percent is very achievable. Unemployment was only 6.6 percent when AB 32 was passed. California is the only state to implement this, and will render California non-competitive with other states.” Kennedy said that California needs to wait to implement more environmental controls, and instead get the state’s economy in order. He said, “regulatory issues translating to taxing our own businesses only hurt California.”

A light moment happened when Craven mentioned the “partisan sniping” and said, “I want to jump right in.”

Both panelists agreed that California has made great strides in energy efficiency, but differed in what the state should do next. Craven held fast on pursuing AB 32 implementation, with Kennedy more concerned about the state’s economic recovery before pursuing more environmental regulations.

An audience member questioned Kennedy but instead of asking a question, criticized what he characterized as Kennedy’s “presumption that environmental policy costs jobs.” Kennedy said “I got my economic information from state agencies – the ARB, Department of energy and PUC.”

“The consequences are pollution,” answered Craven. “We cannot pretend that human caused pollution does not have an impact. Period.”

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  1. Janine
    Janine 9 November, 2010, 14:56

    61% of the 2,500 surveyed believe that Global Warming has already begun. It would be interesting to ask those same people whether they would procreate now or some time in the future. I would bet most would still procreate and not think about the consequences their offspring will suffer in the future. If people believe Global Warming is in effect, they should at the very least, act unselfishly and stop reproducing.

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