Our state – our planet – is running a fever. Climate change is directly impacting our lives, our economy and our residents.
The fires raging across California are causing devastation on an unprecedented scale. Currently, 14,000 firefighters are battling 16 major fires, which have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and killed at least 10 people.
In the first half of 2017, the state experienced significant flooding. Damage to California roads alone exceeded $1 billion. Northern California had its wettest winter in almost a century. The flooding followed one of California’s worst droughts on record, a nearly six-year dry spell.
The common denominator? Climate change. Scientists have been warning us for decades to expect and prepare for the worst, as greenhouse gases lead to heat waves, droughts, floods and sea-level rise.
Fortunately, many of the policies to tackle climate change also create jobs and grow California’s economy, the fifth-largest in the world. We’re home to the country’s largest, most advanced clean energy sector.
According to Advanced Energy Economy, clean and advanced energy now accounts for 542,000 California jobs – three times the number employed in movies, TV and radio, and more than agriculture, forestry and fishing. The clean energy sector is expecting 10 percent job growth this year.
The landmark Assembly Bill 32, passed in 2006, elevated California as a global climate leader. Despite plenty of naysayers, the state hit its greenhouse gas reduction targets four years early. California’s emissions have declined 13 percent since 2006, the equivalent of permanently removing 12 million cars from our roads.
This decade of climate action brought economic growth, improved air quality and clean energy innovation across our state. Our past two governors have shown great leadership.
State leaders are working closely with communities to help them adapt to global warming. The Department of Water Resources is developing maps to educate communities about flood risk. In the East Porterville community in Tulare County, considered “ground zero” for drought, state agencies connected the community to a public water system.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group has long supported our state’s climate and clean energy leadership. We were the first business group to support AB 32, out of a firm belief that transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy would produce millions of jobs while protecting our environment.
In 2015, we also supported Senate Bill 350, which established a goal of at least 50 percent renewable energy, doubling energy efficiency, and promoting transportation electrification. In 2016, we helped lead the campaign for Measure AA, which will raise $500 million in 20 years to restore and enhance the San Francisco Bay wetlands and help mitigate flooding.
Looking ahead, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is working with Bay researchers and stakeholders to craft a regional vision for a healthy, resilient San Francisco Bay 50 years in the future – addressing sea level rise and flooding.
California’s Legislature has unfinished business this session. Priorities include Senate Bill 100, which would turn our grid carbon-free, and Assembly Bill 813, which would help stabilize the energy grid in the Western United States.
Our next governor must build on the successes of Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger to ensure California can adapt to extreme weather, water scarcity, drought, wildfires and sea-level rise. Fires and floods may be our present. We cannot let them be our future.
Carl Guardino is CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a member of the California Transportation Commission and a participant in the The Sacramento Bee/McClatchy Influencers series. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the series (with more on the environment on Monday) at sacbee.com/influencers