On Caring and Climate

Ring ring


Hi, I’m a volunteer for the No on Prop 23 campaign. Do you know what Prop 23 is?

Click. ….

I don’t blame people for not liking cold calls. But can’t a guy get just a little bit of respect on a key issue? Enough not to hang up on me? I always stressed “volunteer” in my opening spiel because people will generally give a volunteer a little more slack than a paid caller. And they might forgive my fumbling as I warmed up to my thankless task of trying to convince voters to vote against Prop 23.

I hadn’t officially volunteered for anything in years, partly because until last year I worked for a non-profit and felt like my day-job was a type of volunteering and partly because I feel like my writing these columns is also volunteerism of a sort – a way to share ideas that I hope will advance the common good. But I was inspired to volunteer for the No on Prop 23 campaign because a friend of mine asked me to and because passage of Prop 23 would be tremendously damaging to California’s efforts to mitigate climate change and promote a green economy.

Prop 23 is the “California Jobs Initiative.” Prop 23 is funded primarily by two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro. The Yes on Prop 23 website states: “We all want to do our part on global warming, but with 2.3 million Californians already unemployed and the state facing a $20 billion budget deficit, protecting jobs and the economy should be our first priority.”

But this is a false choice. A number of studies have concluded that California’s climate change law, AB 32, would create jobs on a net basis. Fossil fuel industries will indeed lose jobs, but green economy companies will more than offset these losses. David Roland-Holst, a professor at UC Berkeley, has rigorously modeled the likely effects of AB 32 in the BEAR computer model of California’s economy. He concludes: “My research on the economic effects of AB 32 suggests that California will achieve higher growth and more widespread employment benefits if climate policies induce innovation, building on the state’s long history of improvements in energy efficiency.”

Why won’t anyone answer? I thought as I dialed number after number. My heart raced a little as someone finally picked up. When I launched into my spiel they cut me off with a “sorry, I don’t have time.” The next person to answer hung up on me immediately. And when I finally got my first positive response, with the person confirming that she planned to vote no on Prop 23, I felt like that in itself was an important victory. 1 down, 5 million or so more to go…

If Prop 23 passes, it’s likely that California would lose jobs on a net basis – the exact opposite of the Yes on Prop 23 argument. In full disclosure, my job is one of those at risk if Prop 23 passes. I began my own business in 2009 because I see the renewable energy transition as key for the future of our planet and the humans who live here, and also as a tremendous economic opportunity. Studies like Roland-Holst’s support my view. I chose my field because I want to do well by doing good. And that’s not a bad thing.

Prop 23 would suspend California’s climate change law until unemployment returns to 5.5% for four consecutive quarters. We’re currently at about 12% unemployment and it will probably be many years before we return to 5.5%. So Prop 23 would essentially repeal California’s effort to mitigate climate change and grow a green economy.

The sum total of my hour and a half of cold-calling was three people confirming that they were voting no on Prop 23 and one person undecided. But each little effort counts and that one person I talked to about Prop 23 will hopefully vote no and talk about it to his friends and family, and so on.

The undecided person was probably my most important contact because we had a short conversation about the pros and cons on Prop 23 and I pointed him to www.stoptexasoil.org for more information. Prop 23 sounds like good sense to a lot of people until they realize that the environment versus the economy framing is a false dichotomy. It’s the environment and the economy because mitigating climate change can now be done cost-effectively with a net positive impact on our economy.

Thankfully, the most recent Field Poll shows that Prop 23 will probably fail to pass – but it’s close enough that we can’t rest on our laurels and assume it will just work out for the best. And that’s why I volunteered to get hung up on by people who I don’t know…

Tam Hunt, J.D., is President of Community Renewable Solutions LLC, a company focused on community-scale renewables, and a Lecturer on climate change law and policy at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. His blog, Thought, Spirit, Politik, is at www.tamhunt.blogspot.com.   

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Tam Hunt is managing member of Community Renewable Solutions LLC, a renewable consulting and project development company focused on community-scale wind and solar. He is also a lecturer at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.

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