Climate Change in CA: we’re all gonna die.

Honestly, California just fell behind. Once they were behind, they never did manage to catch up. The signs were there early, but instead of being taken as warnings, people took the fastest shortcut. When PG&E started cutting power to areas to avoid fires, instead of implementing a huge push of distributed power and solar facilities, it was cheaper to do nothing and let people buy generators. After paying for decades of mismanagement at PG&E, the ratepayers had no stomach for the costs of constructing a grid that could withstand a hotter climate. So we did patchwork fixes. That type of thing.

The Legislature had learned the lesson of the gas tax recall too well. Rather than go all in on a massive scale carbon tax, they tried tinkering with nudges and opportunity districts and cap-and-trade grants. They were never willing to risk their seats with massive wealth transfers from millionaires to the poor, so many climate change reforms were reasonably called elitism that would hurt a poor constituency.  Without the buffer of redistributed wealth, people couldn’t do anything but they cheapest, short-term solutions. To this day, I don’t know how the Governor can live with himself; he had small children! But his administration fucked around with buzzwords instead of facing the issues. If you remember, his early themes of Multi-Benefit Magic!, Portfolio Power! and Resilience Reward! were never adequate to the threat.

Years 1-3

It felt like we were doing the work. Each year, there were good proposals, to accelerate housing or to tackle public health problems. It wasn’t a massive carbon tax, but they were also important issues. Each year, they got pushed back, but we knew they would pass soon. Each year, the fires got worse, but people got used to that. Proposed new building codes never did quite pass and no one wanted to infringe on people’s freedom to live wherever they wanted. In every aspect of life, everything just cost more. It cost more to put in water recycling in urban areas. It cost more to meet new wastewater treatment standards. The costs of meat were going up after the Midwest crop failures. Even people who could afford it got tired of paying and paying and paying. The counties couldn’t ever really cover the costs of blue-green algae blooms and new Valley Fever outbreaks and disposing of thousands of dead cows after heat waves. Without much discussion, they quietly stopped doing much.

Still, people were trying, with their Teslas. It was just that their own neighborhood wasn’t a good fit for a big multi-family “skyscraper”. No one wanted to see homelessness get even worse, but it just wasn’t right to get rid of local authority. After all, what could a Sacramento bureaucrat know about what made a neighborhood special? So even if we wanted to take some of the climate refugees from Central America, there really wasn’t any place to put them. Climate grief spread. People wished they could do something, but it was never really clear what could help. We couldn’t get rid of cars, could we?

Years 4-6

We were completely unprepared for The Bad Year. Having the flood knock out two major cities and interrupt water deliveries to the southland meant that there simply weren’t enough personnel to fight fires in the fall. The floods left debris, molds and polluted waters everywhere. Maybe that was where the virus came from. The kids’ lungs were already weakened from the yearly smoke. It raged through the State.

After the sickness, we never got back on track. The Governor established Freedom Zones. In a Freedom Zone, there were no annoying regulations and no hope of government help after a disaster either. If you wanted to build your home in the path of fire, no one would stop you. No one would help you when the fire came, either.  The Resnicks kinda started the Wonderful! Zones by themselves.  They promised water, food and housing to people who signed twenty-year indentures to process their crops. Whole towns signed on, re-named Wonderful!Towns. The California government was relieved to have those regions taken off their hands. It began negotiations with Facebook and Apple to form their own Zones. People got very upset about that on Twitter.

Years 7-10

Even as California struggled, it was still in better shape than lots of places.   In many of the Zones, life was pretty stable. Golden State Power said they’d restore five days of power to the Mountain Freedom Zone within two years.  In Wonderful!Zone, nut exports were holding steady, as the Resnicks consolidated their water districts. They began selling water to Los Angeles and south, who were happy for the steady supply. Cleanup of the flooded areas wasn’t quite finished, but the people who moved back to the Flood Freedom Zone knew that there could never be a flood like that again. The Bay Area corporation zones had begun to build a water project to tap the rivers in the north state. “Unfinished business to develop security”, they called it. California and the feds sold them the northern portions of the water project

The new governor came in promising green bonds,  major market reforms and tax relief. She also talked about requiring the corporate zones to take their fair share of refugees, but never quite explained how she could do that while honoring Local Authority. The fires were still bad but everyone agreed that anyone in a freedom zone shouldn’t build any housing they weren’t willing to lose every few years.

There wasn’t much talk anymore about fighting climate change. A few hippies were still talking about all the wildlife that had gone extinct. But it was all people could do to keep up with normal life.  They were exhausted from grief, from the epidemics, from being helpless while things went wrong. There wasn’t anything left for making major longterm projects.  We did our best, but it was setback after setback from then on out, with each new normal worse than the last.


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10 responses to “Climate Change in CA: we’re all gonna die.

  1. Noel Park

    No argument here. I don’t know exactly how the cataclysm will play out, but it does seem inevitable.

  2. anonymous2

    I really liked your previous post better, but this one is more realistic….. probably not realistic enough. Reminiscent of Hunger Games, Deep Space Nine’s episode Past Tense, and Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood. I still have hope, but I do think we are screwed. We moved north 14 years ago in anticipation of it all…..Once we humans are gone, the planet will keep orbiting the sun, new species will evolve to fill in the new ecological niches created in this warmer planet, and life will go on. In the future, another smart but not wise organism will destroy everything again……

    • onthepublicrecord

      Well, this is just the next ten years. My kid would be in high school by the end.

    • Steve Bloom

      Well, there’s no potential for climate disruption itself to extinct humans, although our response to it might (nuclear war etc.). Even in the hottest possible climate areas in and poleward of the mid-latitudes would be quite habitable. That said, I think we lack the vocabulary to describe just how unpleasant the transition to an early Eocene-like climate would be, even if we manage to avoid an out-and-out hyperthermal event like the PETM.

  3. Steve Bloom

    BTW, push is now coming to shove for my long-planned CA climate ballot measure (constitutional amendment). Climate awareness is clearly on the rise, and the November 2020 ballot is as close to ideal as could be. I’m still working on the last details of the draft before rolling it out to the public, but these are the basics:

    1) Declare a climate emergency.

    2) Set a minimum goal of net-zero emissions by 2045, with provisions aimed at making that happen as fast as possible. This is more less Jerry’s EO made truly binding, with an urgency clause and the supply side added.

    3) Require a *binding* climate plan statewide, plus for each local jurisdiction, to include mitigation and adaptation. Interim plans right away (a year, perhaps), initial long-term ones 3.5 years in. All plans approved solely by elected Climate Commissioner (see next item). Future actions must conform with plans. (Need to allow some role for Gov and Leg here; still thinking about how best to do that. Backstop on all of this is court review of consistency of legislation/actions with the binding goals. Obviously some sort of escape clause will be needed for economic downturns, disasters etc., but the clear principle is to do all this as fast as we can.)

    4) Climate Commissioner elected in presidential years, separate from other state offices. Authority over all state/local climate actions, including those of all the alphabet soup agencies (the idea being to avoid having to otherwise tinker with them). Authority to issue direct orders to those agencies and where necessary amend/adopt regulations without other review. DOGGR placed directly under Commissioner.

    5) $10 billion bond to finance initial implementation. (Sounds like a lot but isn’t; it’s about a 10% increase in bonded indebtedness. Why a bond? People vote for them far more readily than they do equivalent taxes.) Immediately restrict cap/trade funds to climate purposes, hand over control of the whole thing to first elected Commissioner in January 2024, and give Commissioner authority to modify the scope and amount of the fees (=> the post-bond funding stream).

    6) It could almost be left at that, but in order to have a chance of passage it will be necessary to set some initial priorities. These might include:

    a) Speeding the EV transition (probably prioritizing the charger network in anticipation of the first true mass-market EVs ~2025).

    b) Mandatory electrification of new construction, speed the process for existing (important to start this soon since it will take awhile and unlike EVs has no built-in tipping point until near the end).

    c) Emphasize the air pollution reduction co-benefit in order to help the most impacted communities first (but bear in mind everyone will still benefit since air pollution travels).

    d) Ban fracking and other unconventional extraction techniques. Related to this, retraining program to shift existing industry workers to solar and wind, in particular offshore floating wind. Also will need some sort of backstop to ensure gasoline prices remain within reason while the EV transition proceeds.

    e) End sprawl due to its inherent larger carbon footprint relative to infill. Empower Commissioner to act to enhance latter as needed for housing supply. (Hey YIMBYs!)

    OK, that’s enough for the general idea. Happy to answer questions. Those interested in helping with this can contact me at stevebloom55 -at-

  4. Noel Park

    I just finished “The Dreamt Land” by Mark Arax. He recommends retiring 2,000,000 acres of ag land in the SJV. OTPR, what was your number again?

    • onthepublicrecord

      I’ve been saying up to 3M acres in the state. 2M acres in the San Joaquin Valley seems about right to me.

      I had hoped that Arax got that number from my blog, but when asked about it, he wasn’t a close follower of OtPR.

  5. delveg

    You’d probably want to revise: Proposed new building codes never did quite pass and no one wanted to infringe on people’s freedom to live wherever they wanted.

    (Just revise Building to Energy, since that code does require CA specific action — the building codes are mostly unstoppable nationwide, and are largely tangential to insulation and energy efficiency, since those are Energy and Green Building code specific.)

  6. Jaime Soldi

    The Holocene age, with its comfortable human scale cities and stable weather patterns is coming to an end, not just in CA but also in the rest of the planet. So adapt and get prepared for the Antropocene age, those who expect to survive. What we call ‘wilderness’ and ‘nature’ are not such (at least what we think they are), humans have been modifying and hybridizing the planet for the last 10,000 years or more (since we exterminated our last predators). Today, 50% of world population (4 billion people) live in cities, and by 2050 more tan 70% (7 billion people) will be urbanites. China alone, one of the most populated countries in the world, has gone from 13 to 40% just in the last three decades (as a matter of government policy), and expects half its population to live in mega-cities by the end of this decade, So read and understand what’s coming, not just speculate, because life is not to be feared, but to be understood, as Marie Curie said a century and a half ago