California Leading the Fight on Global Warming
Wednesday’s decision by California’s Supreme Court to allow the state to go ahead with a cap-and-trade program was an important step in the effort to limit and dramatically reduce the global warming pollution that threatens people and wildlife across the state.
The cap-and-trade system is a key piece of California’s groundbreaking Global Warming Solutions Act, which passed in 2006 and sets California apart as a leader in our country’s clean energy future. The law holds polluters like power plants and refineries accountable, requiring them to reduce their emissions over time–while spurring innovative green technologies and jobs.
Last year, two Texas oil companies desperately tried to roll back the Global Warming Solutions Act by pouring millions into a campaign to pass Prop 23, which would have suspended the landmark law. But a broad coalition came together to fight Big Oil in this epic battle, including the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Action Fund–mobilizing more than 100,000 NWF members in the state and funding voter outreach efforts.
In the end, Prop 23 lost by 61% to 39%–a resounding defeat demonstrating that California voters see the global warming law as paving the way to a new clean energy economy.
Californians are already feeling the impacts of climate change on temperature, drought, and snowpack. Hotter, drier summers continue to fuel wildfires across the state–the number and severity of which are expected to increase if global warming is not curbed. And warmer temperatures could contribute to a 70-90 percent decline in spring snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, a natural reservoir that provides up to half the state’s water supply during spring and summer.
Rising temperatures are also taking a toll on wildlife in the Golden State–leading to habitat destruction and ecosystem loss, and forcing species to shift their ranges. One of the most dramatic examples may be the American pika, one of the first mammals in North America that may become extinct due to global warming. Higher temperatures have led to widespread losses of pika populations in recent decades as they are pushed farther and farther upslope, beyond the altitudes that offer the rock formations and plants they need to survive.
Climate change and the ecological responses are not a far-off notion. It is happening now. California’s Supreme Court decision strengthens the state’s leadership in a nation that is failing to find the political will to enact solutions to the growing climate crisis. I hope Washington is listening.