Lacking In Specificity Newsom’s Climate Change Agenda

A few days before the end of the 2022 legislative session, Governor Gavin Newsom released a series of decrees and demands that, according to him, will put California on the rightful path to combat climate change.

Thursday, while standing outside a factory in Antioch that converts brackish water to potable water, Newsom revealed a Plan that, according to him, will allow California to endure a semi-permanent drought with a 10% decrease in water supplies over the next two decades.

“The best science tells us that we must act immediately to adapt to California’s water future,” Newsom said as he unveiled what he called “an aggressive plan to rebuild the way we source, store, and deliver water so that our children and grandchildren can continue to call California home in this hotter, drier climate.”

Examples include:

—Create up to 4 million acre-feet of above- or below-ground storage, “enabling us to take advantage of large storms when they come and store water for dry periods:”

—Transform up to 800,000 hectares per year of wastewater into potable water;

—Save 500,000 acre-feet of water annually by using conservation measures; and

Capture more runoff and desalinate salty seawater and groundwater.

The following day, Newsom urged the Legislature to enact five bills that would set more ambitious goals for reducing California’s carbon footprint to zero by 2045, “setting an example for the rest of the United States and the world on the swift and meaningful actions necessary for reducing carbon pollution, protecting communities, and leading the clean energy future.”

The actions would:

—Declare the state’s objective to be carbon neutral by 2045;

—Increase the 2030 reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions from 40% to 55% below 1990 levels;

—Require that new oil wells be located at least 3,200 feet from schools, residences, and parks;

—Set renewable energy goals of 90 percent by 2035 and 95 percent by 2040; and

—Develop a regulatory framework for carbon removal, capture, usage, and storage.

Despite the fact that these policy declarations constitute Newsom’s prescription for combating climate change, the proverb “talk is cheap” urges us to be cautious.

Assuming Newsom is serious about accomplishing what he says California must do and is not seeking publicity for an upcoming election — either this year’s or one in 2024 — he must go beyond establishing lofty paper targets and explain in detail how he would achieve them.

Consider the proposal to accelerate the transition of the state’s electric power supply to renewable sources, mostly solar and wind, by 2045. During the time he was submitting this request to the legislature, he was also addressing the reality that the state’s power grid is already struggling to meet current demand.

With blackouts looming, Newsom wants to keep five natural gas-fired plants that were slated for shutdown operational, and he wants the state to finance keeping the state’s only existing nuclear facility, Diablo Canyon, online for at least several more years.

Newsom’s plan to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles in favor of battery-powered vehicles will increase the demand for electricity. Therefore, he must explain how this amazing transformation will occur without destroying the economy or overwhelming customers with increased expenditures.

Similarly, he must identify what specific projects will be required to address the decreasing water supply, how much they will cost, and who will foot the bill. Where would he construct new reservoirs and desalination facilities? Newsom stated that he backed a Huntington Beach desalination facility, but the California Coastal Commission has just rejected it.

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