Insurance and Climate Change column

Trump vs. California Climate Battle Brewing

By | December 29, 2016

California vs. Trump, so to speak, is shaping up to be a heavyweight match.

On one side is the world’s sixth (or so) largest economy – home to Disneyland, Hollywood and Big Sur.

On the other is the reality show host/real estate mogul who beat all the odds and grabbed the Oval Office by the electoral college.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is putting out strong signals that the state will work with other nations on fighting climate change despite indications from President-elect Donald Trump that he intends to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate change agreement.

An article earlier this week in the New York Times outlines how Brown and his state appear poised to resist Trump on climate change, as well as other on likely Trump initiatives, such as efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.

“California can make a significant contribution to advancing the cause of dealing with climate change, irrespective of what goes on in Washington,” the Democrat governor was quoted as saying in the article. “I wouldn’t underestimate California’s resolve if everything moves in this extreme climate denial direction. Yes, we will take action.”

Brown, who spoke at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris just over a year ago, has had his foot on the gas pedal in the fight against global warming for some time.

He signed Senate Bill 32 and Assembly Bill 197 in September. The new laws require the state to cut emissions at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and invest in the communities hardest hit by climate change.

Brown a year earlier signed Senate Bill 350 to double the rate of energy efficiency savings in California buildings and generate half of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Brown also committed to reducing petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent within the next 15 years.

More recently at the recent American Geophysical Union’s annual fall meeting in San Francisco, Brown called on the group of scientists to help mobilize the fight against climate change.

“The time has never been more urgent or your work never more important,” Brown said. “The climate is changing, temperatures are rising, oceans are becoming more acidified, habitats are under stress – the world is facing tremendous danger.”

Several low-lying parts of Tampa Bay, Fla. are in danger of flooding under even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's most modest sea level rise scenario.
Several low-lying parts of Tampa Bay, Fla. are in danger of flooding under even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most modest sea level rise scenario. Read down further for details.

Brown told them it will “be up to you as truth-tellers, truth seekers to mobilize” efforts to fight back.

“We will pursue a path of collaboration and bold political advancement – whatever they do in Washington – and eventually the truth will prevail,” Brown continued. “This is not a battle of one day or one election. This is a long-term slog into the future and you are there, the foot soldiers of change and understanding and scientific collaboration.”

It’s nothing personal against Trump. Brown was outspoken throughout the presidential campaign against the climate change positions of several Republican candidates, according to a Breitbart story.

“Last September, for instance, he sent Dr. Ben Carson a flash drive containing the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” the story states. “Earlier this month, Brown attacked President-elect Trump’s views on climate change and also attacked Breitbart News for describing methane regulations (accurately, if crudely) as rules on ‘cow farts.'”

Other states

On the other hand, attorneys general from conservative states that have fought against the Obama administration’s climate change agenda from the start may gladly take on the role of supporting Trump in an effort to roll back that agenda, according to an article in the Washington Times.

“Republicans have begun exercising their influence over the incoming president and his pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has built a political career by battling the very agency he is about to lead,” the article states. “Earlier this month, 24 attorneys general signed an open letter laying out how the Trump administration could begin to dismantle President Obama’s global warming agenda.”

The letter focuses on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan proposal to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

“The incoming administration and Congress now have the opportunity to withdraw this unlawful rule and prevent adoption of a similar rule in the future,” the letter states. “An executive order on Day One is critical. The order should explain that it is the administration’s view that the rule is unlawful and that EPA lacks authority to enforce it. The executive order is necessary to send an immediate and strong message to states and regulated entities that the administration will not enforce the rule.”

The attorneys general are part of a multistate lawsuit against the EPA rules. A decision is pending in federal court. In the meantime, the Clean Power Plan is on hold due to a Supreme Court order that halted it during litigation

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is now a red state for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s win in 1984.

The state – well at least the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – is evidently on board with the incoming president’s likely climate agenda. This is beside handing Trump 10 electoral votes in the most recent election

The department got some press when it was revealed that it removed information about human activity being the main cause of climate change from its website.

An archived version of the website is bullish on the department’s assessment of mankind’s involvement in global warming.

“Earth´s climate is changing. Human activities that increase heat–trapping (“green house”) gases are the main cause,” the site states.

It notes that Earth´s average temperature has risen 1.4 °F since 1850, the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 1998 and that these changes could have “severe effects on the Great Lakes and the plants, wildlife and people who depend on them.”

The new version of the page reads:

“As it has done throughout the centuries, the earth is going through a change. The reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth’s long history are being debated and researched by academic entities outside the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.”

Many thanks to Snopes.com for doing some of the legwork on this.

Tampa Bay

Several low-lying parts of Tampa Bay, Fla. are in danger of flooding under even the most modest sea level rise scenario, according to a study from the Hillsborough County-City Planning Commission conducted in advance of an upcoming public hearing on Jan. 23, 2017.

Data for the study comes from the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, which issued recommended sea level rise projections for the area. Planning Commission staff worked with the City of Tampa staff and the assistance of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to complete a vulnerability assessment for Tampa based on the projections.

The study relies on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that sea level rise will impact the Tampa Bay region in the next 25 years. The NOAA estimates provide four global mean sea level rise scenarios.

The advisory panel convened in 2015 to study these scenarios using the NOAA estimates and concluded that the Tampa Bay region might experience sea level rise between 0.5 to 2.5 feet by 2050.

Tampa has already experienced an estimated 7 inches of sea level rise over the last 67 years of records, according to the study.

The study and upcoming the Planning Commission hearing, which is to vote on whether to recommend that the city council adopt an amended city plan that includes the study’s suggestions, are under the auspices of the Peril of Flood Act in 2015. Passed by the Florida Legislature, the act placed new requirements for local governments to address flooding, including flooding from sea level rise.

Three areas highlighted in the study that may be impacted are: Old Tampa Bay near Tampa International Airport; the Tampa Bay area east of MacDill Air Force Base; and McKay Bay and the Tampa Bypass Canal. Properties along the Hillsborough River may also see a distributed rise in water level, according to the study.

Notable findings include: Segments of 31 local roads are at-risk; at least 80 percent of affected properties are publicly owned; Tampa General Hospital and a number of parks are at risk; critical facilities are not located within at-risk areas, but the area surrounding the McKay Bay Refuse-To-Energy Facility should be monitored; several storm water basins and some storm water facilities are within the at-risk areas.

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