Trump stalls California's climate efforts
For the past three years, countries and companies around the world have looked to California as a counterweight to the Trump administration’s aggressive dismantling of efforts to combat climate change.
But this past week, as wildfires burned across the state — fires that scientists said have been made worse by a changing climate — and as at least five large carmakers sided with President Donald Trump’s plan to roll back California’s climate pollution standards, the state’s status as the vanguard of environmental policy seemed at the very least diminished.
The state’s leaders found themselves both witnessing firsthand the effects of climate change and hamstrung to take actions to fight it.
“We’re waging war against the most destructive fires in our state’s history, and Trump is conducting a full-on assault against the antidote,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in an interview.
Trump has taken broad aim at efforts to fight global warming since his first days in office. He has mocked the established science of human-caused warming as a hoax, turned his pledge to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord into a campaign rallying cry and directed the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back nearly every federal policy designed to curb the heat-trapping fossil-fuel pollution that is the chief cause of global warming.
But Trump’s quest to tear down rules that restrict the fossil fuel industry has homed in on California as a particular target. That’s in part because of California’s unique role as a beacon of the nation’s climate change policies: Some signature federal climate change programs Trump seeks to dismantle originated in the state. And since Trump has vowed to pull the United States out of the international climate accord, California has actively sought to replicate and link its policies with other countries.
As Newsom sees it, there is a contradiction between Trump’s willingness to help fire victims and his refusal to address the underlying reasons for the increasing ferocity of the fires.
“Last night they approved seven additional emergency grants in record time,” Newsom said. “But what’s so insidious, and what’s so remarkable, is that he’s doing everything right to respond to these disasters and everything wrong to address what’s happening to cause them.”
Asked to respond, a White House spokesman, Judd Deere, said California’s leaders “support destructive liberal policies” and have not done enough to manage wildfire risks. “California should focus on its own affairs rather than trying to regulate 49 other states with its big-government policies.”
Experts said that the administration’s efforts to roll back climate policy in California will not lead directly to worse wildfires. But California is the fifth-largest economy in the world, and what happens here can reverberate and affect national and international efforts to halt global warming.
The past 10 days have brought home to many Californians the brutal reality of a changing climate and cemented the feeling that politicians far away in Washington are not just ignoring it but actively working to undermine their efforts to address it.
“The seas are rising, diseases are spreading, fires are burning, hundreds of thousands of people are leaving their homes,” Jerry Brown, the former California governor, told a hearing in Washington earlier this week. “California is burning while the deniers fight the standards that can help us all.