Want to know which counties in the U.S. accept climate science at the highest rates and which don’t? Which ones believe climate change is happening or that we should regulate carbon as a pollutant?
If that’s the case, then Yale has the interactive map for you. The school’s Program on Climate Change Communication just released its “Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016,” which breaks public opinion surveys down to the county level across the U.S.
It’s an easy-to-use map. While it doesn’t contain a huge amount of surprises (New England and the West Coast, particularly California, are pro-science accepters), it does reveal that climate science acceptance is actually fairly prevalent in red states. Standouts include southern and northern Arizona and much of South Texas. Montana, Idaho and South Dakota also have pretty striking pockets of science acceptance, as well as parts of Mississippi along the river to the northwest.
But there’s otherwise hard-core climate denial going on from the heart of Texas north through Nebraska, and throughout coal-country Appalachia (Kentucky and West Virginia).
The website is definitely an interesting way to spend a few minutes clicking around. Congratulations to Yale for putting it together.
Could California’s entire set of vehicle emission standards, including its zero-emission vehicle program that has helped launch the global electric vehicle market, come under federal assault? It’s a worst-case scenario that would require congressional action, but it’s amazingly within the realm of possibility.
California has unique authority under the federal Clean Air Act to regulate vehicle emissions. That authority requires the state to first seek a “waiver” from less-stringent federal standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA always granted those waiver requests until the George W. Bush administration came along. His administration refused to grant a waiver for the state to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes.
California sued, but the Obama Administration took office before the case was resolved and then granted the waiver. But now new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is looking not only to refuse to grant future waivers but possibly roll back previously granted ones (Buzzfeed covered the issue on Tuesday with some quotes from yours truly). It would be an unprecedented step that would be sure to be challenged in court.
But the even deeper concern is that the litigation might prompt Congress to revoke California’s waiver authority altogether. The Atlantic has a great piece on the situation, including this passage quoting Debbie Sivas at Stanford:
She feared that this fight in the courts would accompany a political fight in Congress, as the administration would seek to amend the Clean Air Act to remove California’s waiver power before they lost the lawsuit.
And—almost in preparation for that battle—she asked Americans to take a step back and examine why regulating greenhouse gases from cars is important.
“It feels like this very technical thing about, ‘blah blah, waivers, blah blah blah,’ but it’s a very important part of the climate policy,” Sivas told me. “People aren’t going to stop driving, really. And transportation’s 40 percent of carbon emissions. The only way to get [those emissions] down is to get [fuel] mileage up. If the feds are going to take their foot off the gas—and to fight the states who are doing it—it could be a huge setback,” said Sivas.
There’s a lot at stake in this fight. Federal fuel economy standards are prompted by California’s authority on the issue, and future standards could definitely be at risk. I have a lot of confidence in California’s legal team to fight this assault, but it would be a major setback for the time being.
But if Congress were to revoke the waiver status, and even retroactively apply it, the future of both cleaner gas-powered cars and the nascent electric vehicle market would be at tremendous risk.
It was a big victory last night for the Los Angeles economy and environment. Voters decisively rejected Measure S, a city measure that would have essentially frozen development for at least two years, with incredibly detrimental effects on local rents, housing prices, construction jobs, and sprawl.
The measure garnered just 31.5 percent of the vote, as LA Curbed reported. A broad coalition of environmental groups, labor unions, and homeless advocates, coupled with almost all major political leaders (including the governor), mobilized against it. Homeowners groups largely comprised the pro side.
Despite the broad opposition, many smart growth advocates were nervous about the vote. It’s a low-turnout election in March, and homeowner groups were really playing up the “overdevelopment” and “corrupt City Hall” angle to the measure. And on the heels of Brexit and Trump, it seemed plausible that Los Angeles voters would succumb to the same anxiety over changes in their communities, coupled with distrust of elites.
But the positive outcome won’t solve the development challenges in Los Angeles, as even the anti-Measure S groups conceded. The city suffers from a lack of comprehensive planning to ensure growth happens in the right places (near transit, largely) and to avoid the project-by-project approval processes that open the system up to abuse and inefficiency.
My hope is that the coalition that assembled against the measure continues to stay engaged on this issue of long-term planning in the city. They may even find common cause with some of the pro-S forces.
But for now, smart growth advocates and environmentalists can breathe a huge sigh of relief that ballot box planning didn’t rule the day.
California’s high speed rail system was supposed to rely on electrified service between San Jose (Silicon Valley) and San Francisco. But with the Trump Administration putting the brakes on the grant for Caltrain (peninsula commuter rail) to be converted from diesel to electric motors, people are wondering how it will now affect high speed rail.
To discuss the matter, I spoke on KPCC Radio’s “AirTalk” program in Los Angeles yesterday. I was joined by:
- Ralph Vartabedian, L.A. Times national correspondent; he has been following the story
- Meghan McCarty, KPCC reporter covering commuting and mobility issues
You can listen to the audio on the Airtalk page.
The bottom line: high speed rail can still continue without Caltrain electrification, but it will stop at San Jose. Of course, it’s not slated to arrive there until 2025, which gives the Bay Area and the California High Speed Rail Authority a fair amount of time to find alternative sources of funding if the Trump Administration officially torpedoes the project.
And in the meantime, the system will be relying on funding from cap-and-trade auctions, which recently haven’t gone so well. All in all, trying days ahead for high speed rail proponents.
With the Trump Administration escalating deportations and expanding enforcement beyond serious criminals, how will these policies affect the San Francisco Bay Area — and beyond? What does it mean to be a sanctuary city? And what options are available for protecting residents?
To discuss these questions, I’ll be moderating a panel tonight at 7pm on City Visions, on local public radio KALW 91.7 FM San Francisco.
My guests will include:
- Sheryl Davis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission
- Grisel Ruiz, staff attorney in San Francisco with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center
- Sandy Valenciano, statewide coordinator for the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
Tune in or stream live and call or email with your questions!
Los Angeles voters face a major decision on Tuesday: will the city retreat from future growth in existing urbanized areas, worsening its current path of income inequality, economic decline for most of the population, severe traffic and air pollution? Because that’s what Measure S would largely achieve.
The measure would effectively halt new development for the next two years that involves any planning changes, putting development pressure on areas currently zoned for more development, usually in disadvantaged communities. The result will be a broken status quo that will only get worse, keeping Los Angeles only affordable to the very wealthy and displacing or pushing everyone else out into sprawl and far from good-paying jobs.
I think most sides of this land use battle would agree on one thing: Los Angeles needs better planning to ensure more development in the right places (near transit and jobs). This measure would not help achieve that goal though. It will instead mostly benefit existing homeowners who were fortunate enough to buy their homes at the right time or have the incomes to afford decent housing near jobs.
These individuals fear “overdevelopment” and density in their neighborhoods, and they want government to intervene to prevent it from happening. It’s the Anti-Sanctuary City.
Madaleine Brand hosted a lively one-hour discussion of Measure S yesterday on KCRW radio, featuring many of the leading voices on the issue from all sides:
Fingers crossed that Angelenos make the right call on Tuesday, or the region will have just taken a giant step backward in terms of economic, environmental and quality-of-life outcomes.
And in the long run, my hope is that a defeated Measure S will still spark a long-overdue discussion in Los Angeles about better planning.
Tanzania exemplifies so much of the future of energy infrastructure in developing world countries, as Greenbiz describes:
The East African country of Tanzania faces a serious electrification challenge. Only 2 percent (PDF) of rural households have access to electricity, and most of the rural population relies on expensive, hazardous and low-quality fuels such as kerosene for lighting and charcoal for cooking.
Access to electricity and other modern energy services is fundamental to human well-being and to a country’s social and economic development. In many countries, electrification through off-grid applications has become a cost-effective alternative to conventional grid expansion in remote areas — and this could become a model that propels Tanzania’s next phase of economic growth. Already in the country, energy systems based on wind, small hydropower, biomass and solar resources are being used successfully to meet energy demand in isolated villages. By integrating these renewable-powered off-grid systems, rural communities are increasing their access to affordable energy supplies while contributing meaningfully to climate change mitigation.
Much like the leap to cell phones over landlines, many countries like Tanzania are better served going directly to decentralized, renewable technologies rather than building expensive and dirty traditional power grids with central-station power plants and far-flung transmission lines.
The upside is a cleaner, more resilient energy system with potentially few impacts on the land. It also means more immediate electrification for rural residents, rather than making them wait for government and utilities to build a centralized grid to reach them.
I note that in this article, batteries do not seem to be on the table for Tanzania’s rural areas, while biomass may make up a crucial portion of the electricity mix. I have nothing against biomass in concept, but depending on the technologies and incentives involved, it can sometimes lead to increases in emissions.
These opportunities in many ways come from the developed world’s investment in renewable technologies, which has brought prices down to the point where they are now viable options for poorer countries like Tanzania.
The smart phone revolution has almost completely taken over the human race, rendering most people into neck-bent zombies hungry for their next dosing of information or messages from friends, family or colleagues.
But maybe there’s a downside to the technology, too: harmful radiation.
A few years ago, California’s Environmental Health Investigations branch assessed the risks of cellphone radiation and offered recommendations for public use. But the branch kept the supposedly “draft” document under wraps, until my UC Berkeley Law colleague Claudia Polsky and the school’s environmental law clinic students sued to have it released, on behalf of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.
Claudia and her clinic students just won the case in superior court, and she appeared on CBS Local News to discuss it:
Advice for those worried about cell phone radiation? Keep the phone out of your front pocket or bra and keep it as far from you as possible while you sleep — especially for children. Better safe than sorry!
I’ve spent some time thinking about how reframing arguments around climate change might make inroads with science-denying conservatives. If facts don’t matter, maybe forcing deniers to think through the impacts of their ideas might work? Or maybe try labeling all extreme weather as “climate change”? Or talk about climate past and what we’ve lost?
But David Roberts over at Vox disparages the idea that better language can make a difference, citing recent research:
To sum up, the frames that reach people and actually make a difference are a) resonant with their existing dispositions and affiliations, b) delivered by a trusted source, and c) repeated often enough to penetrate the pervasive information buzz.
Ultimately, Roberts reasons, traditional arguments may still be the best ones, given the current political climate and way the human mind works:
This isn’t to say that other frames can’t work for particular audiences at particular times. Entrepreneurs could be (and have been) taken by the notion that climate is an enormous business innovation opportunity. Conservatives could be (and have been) taken by the notion that renewable energy offers energy independence. Disadvantaged or polluted communities could be (and have been) taken by the notion that climate mitigation also mitigates asthma-causing pollutants.
And so on. “Know your audience and speak to them in a way that resonates” is a fairly old bit of counsel, around long before cognitive linguistics, and it’s as true as ever.
I agree it’s not worth a huge effort to try to convince deniers on the science. But if simple fixes to language and rhetoric might disarm a critic and get them to think differently, there’s also no harm in trying.