As the Paris climate agreement now joins the litany of great American things that President Donald Trump has debased, there is this silver lining: More of the world is starting to think like Californians.
“We Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told supporters last week as Trump wrapped up a summit with America’s European allies. Merkel’s last straw was partly Trump’s bashing of NATO, but she also was reacting to his reckless abdication of leadership on global warming.
Trump was never going to keep Barack Obama’s word. His very policies undercut the historic climate commitment. His toying with reneging has been a sick play to his base, and reckless.
But California has known this all along.
This week, the state that voted against Trump 2-1 showed how more level-headed people “fight for our future,” as Merkel put it.
In Sacramento, legislation that would move the state to 100 percent clean, zero-carbon electricity over the next generation moved inexorably though the Senate. So did a quieter, but nonetheless pivotal package that would insulate California from any White House attempt to roll back federal environmental standards, exploit public lands, punish whistleblowers or corrupt scientific data.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a battalion of state lawyers are preparing for a potential Trump challenge to the federal waiver that has allowed California to effectively set national fuel economy standards since the Nixon Administration.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown headed for China to sell cities and provinces on California’s approach – renewable energy, ambitious goals and a cap-and-trade system for restraining greenhouse gases.
California has passed bills requiring that utilities replace coal with solar and wind power, that manufacturers make appliances more energy efficient, that automakers emit less exhaust and that the state radically cut greenhouse gas emissions. The state air resources board has set a goal of putting more than 4 million zero emission vehicles to be on the road by 2030.
Brown’s efforts, in particular, have been heroic. Some 170 jurisdictions worldwide have now signed onto his pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
And if the Democratic-controlled Legislature isn’t always in lockstep with him – there are disagreements this year over when and how best to extend the cap and trade program past its expiration date in 2020 – it isn’t for lack of unity, even with many Republicans, on the fundamental issue.
For all of Trump’s claims that environmental rules have been job killers, California – the world’s sixth-largest economy – has shown that saving the planet and economic growth aren’t mutually exclusive. There were more solar industry jobs last year in California – more than 100,000 – then there were in the entire coal industry.
It takes strength to ignore someone like Trump; it’s hard to look away from aberrant behavior. And it is devastating to see how far this nation has fallen from the one whose president stood by Germans – on the planet’s behalf – with the statement “ich bin ein Berliner” more than 50 years ago.
But Merkel isn’t alone on this century’s existential crisis. A lot of us are refusing to let Trump take us down with him.
And our battle cry translates: “Ich bin ein Californian.”
Welcome to the resistance, chancellor.