Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Report: CARB chair Mary D. Nichols on AB32 in Nevada City

Update: other reports by Rebane, Steele; reaction by Pelline. If you run across others, could you please add them in the comments?

Tonight was the AB32 presentation at City Hall by California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols. It was informative, well attended, well-run and civil. Kudos to organizers Judy Kildow and Robert Bergman and speaker Nichols for the format, which limited the presentation to AB32 and called for questions to be written on an index card and passed to the aisle.

Practically everyone who was anyone was there.
(And if you missed it, some extremely welcome news - there are plans to bring other science and science-aligned policy experts to our community, to speak on issues like climate change and ocean acidification.)

Nichols spoke for about half an hour on AB32's aims and implementation, then answered audience questions. She stressed that she represented all of us and was not expected or permitted to advocate for or against the stop-AB32 initiative, Prop. 23.

She pointed out we're victims of Bay Area and Sacto-area emissions - our air quality is worse than any rural region in the country, and worse than any region outside of California. And global warming makes air pollution worse - for the same amount of pollution emitted, you get more ground-level ozone. Their study projected that in 40 years, with global warming we'll have an extra 30 "bad ozone" days a year.
"People don't want air that shortens their lives and makes their children sick."
What AB32 does -
Its goal is to get us off petroleum in 40 years, to increase efficiency & shift to more reliable & cleaner energy. It's "cost effective, common sense measures to ratchet down smog and greenhouse gases too."
CARB aims to manage the transition, to make it as seamless, painless and equitable as possible.

* Basically, AB32 reduces emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 - a 15% cut from today - and already we have in place over half the emission reductions needed to meet that goal, mostly via the Pavley bill (AB 1493?)
* By 2020, 1/3 of electricity generated in CA must be from renewables (this would be suspended under Prop 23)
* A low carbon fuel standard - oil cos. will have a choice on how to meet it, e.g. compressed natural gas, electric fueling stations... - for a 20% drop in oil consumption
* Reduce car usage, via land use and transportation planning - it'd be voluntary for communities, with the carrots being CEQA-free infill development and (presumably state) transportation funding.
* Cap & trade, a mechanism originally promoted by the business community - put a price on carbon, so people can choose to make money by cleaning it up. The cap steps down gradually.

There were a couple of good questions asking what to do when an AB32 regulation proves unworkable - e.g. diesel particulate filters on trucks causing them to run poorly and get worse mileage - she answered saying that yes, they do revisit such regulations - you contact their ombudsman, who's their small business point person, and they look at the situation and sometimes lift restrictions or temporarily stop enforcement until they can figure it out & come up with a fix.

Another question was about an L.A. study projecting a huge increase in electricity costs; Nichols responded saying that electricity rates are projected to increase considerably in future, AB32 or no AB32, and that one of the things AB32 will do is protect us from price increases, since - via renewables - it'll reduce our vulnerability to price spikes via outside interests; though she didn't explicitly mention our Enron summer.

For a historical analogy of an earlier transition, she used the example of vapor-retrieval gas nozzles at gas stations, reminding us how stinky refueling your car used to be, and how gas station owners were not happy about installing the new equipment; yet now we take it for granted.

She freely admitted that California wasn't going to stop global warming, since we produce just 2% of global emissions; but said the goal is for us to pioneer solutions, to let us demonstrate techniques & technologies for others to buy; and to reap the benefits of being early adopters.

Friday, September 24, 2010

KVMR climate commentary response to George Rebane

Last Friday KVMR ran a commentary from Dr. Rebane that described&named "camps" who hold various climate views, extolled Bjorn Lomborg, and argued for a Yes vote on Prop 23; and since I'd been told I could reply if Rebane started using his commentary for climate contrarianism, I was invited to respond to that one. My response airs tonight on KVMR's 6pm news.
(As I've said elsewhere, I'm uncomfortable being put in the position of advocating a particular vote - I'm a flashlight-wielder, not an arm-twister or persuader - so after countering Rebane's climate-delay talking points, for the "Prop 23" part I just cribbed from the recent NYTimes editorial.)

Here's the text , with references.

Last Friday, KVMR ran a commentary by retired engineer George Rebane, who cited author Bjorn Lomborg in arguing for Prop 23, the out-of-state-oil-funded initiative to roll back California's global warming law.

I thought about what to tell you in response. Should I point out it's a red flag when someone doesn't accept climate science and uses the term "true believers" to describe those who do? - including the 29 out of 30 active climate scientists who agree there's a consensus of evidence that global warming is happening and largely human-caused. (The small group of doubters has demonstrably lower expertise. )

Or perhaps I should note that Bjorn Lomborg, the fellow Rebane touted, has no expertise in climate science or environmental economics, his background's in poli sci and game theory. And while he's written several books that are loaded with footnotes and references, a review of the references found they're a sham, they don't support his claims.

Or I could share some pointers on judging who to trust - like, when there are two sides on an issue, if one side has the recycled tobacco PR flacks & the other has pretty much every major scientific organization on the planet, to treat the two sides equally is...unwise.

Or I could point out that Rebane's "there's no proof" argument' is a red herring - science deals in probabilities, not proof - by the time there's proof it'll be too late. If a mom sits back and lets her son play in traffic since there's no *proof* he'll get run over, we call it reckless endangerment.

Or I could share my prediction that the climate delay effort will turn out to be the most pervasive, effective and destructive commercial PR disinformation effort that the world has ever known. The fossil fuels industry is just as threatened as tobacco was; and we *know* what the tobacco folks were doing behind the scenes to confuse the public. This industry's 10 times bigger; you do the math.
(In his Prop 23 [KVMR] debate with Steve Frisch, in the context of climate science Rebane mentioned a scientist who'd lost his position at UCLA - but neglected to say that the guy's a tobacco researcher.)

No, what I should do for you is share some points from the Prop. 23 editorial in Monday's[?] New York Times; it's called The Brothers Koch and AB 32:
Note: I cut out a lot, & did a lot of paraphrasing for brevity/clarity; the link above goes to the original.
"Four years ago, bipartisan majorities in the California Legislature approved a landmark clean energy bill. Now a coalition of right-wing ideologues, out-of-state oil & gas companies & climate-change skeptics is seeking to effectively kill it.

The money men include Charles and David Koch, the Kansas oil and gas billionaires who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement.

The law they want to kill, AB32, aims to reduce] California’s emissions of co2 and other greenhouse gases. The prospect that it could reduce gas sales strikes terror into some energy companies. Much of the $8.2 million raised to stop the law came from just two Texas-based oil and gas companies, Valero and Tesoro. The Koch brothers gave another million, partly because they worry about damage to the Koch Industries bottom line, and also because they think climate change is a left-wing hoax.

Since the law was passed, there's been an enormous increase in investments in clean energy technologies — and the jobs that go with them. Overturning it would threaten that and the effort to fight climate change, since State and regional efforts are crucially important drivers — if California pulls back, other states that are trying to reduce emissions may do so as well.

The Kochs and their allies are disastrously wrong about the science... and wrong about the economics. So AB 32’s many friends — led by Schwarzenegger and another respected Republican, Nixon and Reagan cabinet member George Shultz — have mounted a spirited counterattack to defend the law, which Shultz credits for an unprecedented outburst of technological creativity and investment.

Who wins if Prop 23 passes and our global warming law is repudiated? The Koch brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean tech race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet. "
Nobel economist Paul Krugman's New York Times piece Building a Green Economy is a great intro to environmental economics and climate policy.
He sums it up saying,
"We know how to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. We have a good sense of the costs — and they’re manageable. All we need now is the political will. "
Thank you.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

NASA's Climate Q&A

For those who think the EPA's Responses to Comments (a compendium of disinformation debunkings) aren't trustworthy since the EPA is "just a bunch of bureaucrats", and for those who don't like John Cook's or Coby Beck's "How to Talk to a Climate [pseudo]Skeptic" compendia because neither Cook nor Beck is a climate scientist, and for those who don't like the climate scientists' blog since the RC folk don't put up with foolishness, there's a fifth option:

NASA's Climate Q&A, with Qs like:
  • "Are there natural processes that can amplify or limit global warming?"
  • "What if global warming isn’t as severe as predicted?"
  • "Has the Sun been more active in recent decades, and could it be responsible for some global warming?"
In an ideal world, this resource would satisfy them.

I agree with Randy Olson though, that a separate institution is needed.
("virtually EVERYONE in the evolution science world knows the NCSE, has huge respect for them, and uses them for the services they provide. There is nothing like that for the defense of climate science.")

fixed link, 2010-09-18

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Your citizen journalism project: Dialing 9-1-1 in Nevada County

It appears that the Nevada County Sheriff's office - and perhaps also the city police office(s) - may be asking 9-1-1 callers for personal information in order to run warrant checks on them.

If you dial 9-1-1 in Nevada County to report an emergency, you may be asked for your name, address and date of birth even when the emergency you're reporting has nothing to do with you. When you ask why, you may get some awkward answers - "to make sure you're you", "to distinguish between you and someone else of the same name in the same household", and the like.

From an informal survey, it seems this isn't usual, & that other locales generally don't require this additional personal information - information which may then become public, since the 9-1-1 recordings have been held to be public.
(is this private information redacted from the public record?)

On at least one occasion, a 9-1-1 dispatcher has refused to accept relevant details about an incident after the caller refused to provide their personal information. And it's not clear whether the officers have been dispatched before the dispatcher asks for this information, or whether "all the boxes must be filled in first".

I don't have the time to nail this story down - but if you'd like to do so, the "police department report" section of the video of the Jul 28, 2010 July Nevada City City Council meeting would be a good starting point. You'll also want to talk to the Sheriff's Department spokesman, and ask direct and pointed questions. Nevada City councilmembers may also be helpful.

Detail: I'm told the Nevada City incident reported in the meeting occurred during regular business hours on a weekday, though you may want to confirm this.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Is Anthony Watts any relation to PR firm Russo, Watts and Rollins?

Does anyone know if Chico climate contrarian Anthony Watts is any relation to the Doug Watts who was with Sacramento political consulting firm Russo, Watts and Rollins?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Your citizen journalism project: Nevada City street paving

I'm trying to stick to climate change, but looking into & reporting on this would make a good project for someone.

This Nevada City street was paved last year, as part of the Measure S street resurfacing. It has already developed a pothole; a revealing one.

Is the asphalt supposed to be a quarter of an inch thick? What did the bid specs say?

Was this a one-spot problem, or is it thin like this in extensive areas & on the other Measure S-paved streets?

Does anyone check the contractor's work during the project, and if so, what process is followed?

Was the contractor local, or a Sacramento-area one?

Does the problem lie with the paving contractor, or with whoever prepared the street for paving, or are they the same entity?

What recourse do we-the-city have, if this turns out not to be an isolated problem?

Pothole location: Nile, just down from Clay.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Response by KVMR's Al Stahler, host of Soundings

This is a followup to two NCFocus posts from last month:

Here is his reply:
( I've taken the liberty of adding a few links where he's referred to outside information, so you can read for yourself if you choose.)

Friday, September 03, 2010

This week: Prop. 23 - Kochs give, KVMR/Frisch/Rebane; and McKibben

Prop 23 (essentially, "Paralyze California's Global Warming Solutions Act") news:

The Kansas-based Kochs have now weighed in, as it were, with a hefty million-dollar "Yes on 23" contribution from a Koch Industries subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources. Campaign finance data here.

KVMR hosted a Prop. 23 "discussion, not a debate" with Steve Frisch and George Rebane on Wed. eve; see Jeff Pelline's "before" and "after" posts for details and discussion.
No transcript available, but you can listen to the audio recording.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Girl Who Played With Fire, Del Oro tonight, 9pm only

...or at least, that's my understanding; it doesn't show up on the Sierra Cinemas website (but it was in the Prospector).

Descriptors (hearsay): Made for TV, not as good or as intense as Dragon Tattoo; last day/time to see it.

Update: it's a good thing you missed it, since even if you'd gone, you would have missed it. It turned out the website was correct, the Prospector and office were not.