As the United Nations Climate Change Conference enters its second week in Copenhagen, California will send a delegation to showcase the state’s own climate change policies. Since his election to office in 2003, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made global warming and climate change a cornerstone of his gubernatorial legacy. When he addresses conference delegates this week, Schwarzenegger will boast that under his watch the state has implemented some of the strictest and most comprehensive environmental regulations in the world. But delegates won’t be presented with the true cost of Schwarzenegger’s war on global warming.
Californians know better than anyone else the devastating effects of severe environmental laws. The state is reeling from a mass exodus of businesses and employees who can no longer operate under such onerous restrictions. In 2008 alone, over a quarter million jobs were lost in the Golden State. Although California’s official unemployment rate is 12.3%, there are estimates it could really be as high as 20%.
Despite these alarming numbers, last week Governor Schwarzenegger praised a report by Next 10, an environmental organization, claiming that “green jobs and business growth significantly outpace the rest of California’s economy.” The report predicts green policies will create over 400,000 jobs in California over the next 12 years. The darling of climate change devotees such as Schwarzenegger and Al Gore, so-called “green jobs and businesses” have received the benefits of tax breaks and a variety of other government promotions. In reality, the exaggerated growth of green jobs cannot balance the loss of existing jobs and businesses destroyed by environmental regulations.
In 2006, Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 32, Kyoto-modeled legislation that mandated California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A recent study by the California Small Business Roundtable revealed that AB 32 will cost the state $71.46 billion annually. The annual cost to consumers will be $149.2 billion, and small businesses will pay $182.64 billion. The report also estimates the state will lose over 1.1 million jobs as a result of AB 32’s regulations—over 3% of the state population.
In the midst of the greatest economic decline since the Great Depression, California moves blindly onward in its quest to achieve green utopia. The San Diego Union Tribune recently asked Schwarzenegger whether he would consider suspending AB 32’s drastic regulations to help the state cope with the recession—a provision upon which he predicated his initial support for the legislation. Incredibly, despite all evidence to the contrary, and regardless of how dire the economic conditions, the Governor asserts he is “not going to suspend regulations that are creating jobs and stimulating the economy.”
In the three years since he signed the legislation, Schwarzenegger has apparently thrown his early caution to the wind. The Governor now asserts that suspension of AB 32 is unnecessary because “Major programs under AB 32 will not go into effect until 2012. By then, the economy will continue to improve – helped by the continued growth of California’s clean tech sector.” Schwarzenegger’s administration concluded that only if there was evidence that AB 32 “has something to do with growing unemployment” would they suspend AB 32. Perhaps the California Small Business Roundtable should send a copy of their alarming report to the Governor’s office.
Justifying his commitment to climate change regulations, the governor commented, “One study estimates that $2.5 trillion of California assets are threatened by climate change. Think about that, this means our highways and certain buildings will be threatened.” What the Governor fails to recognize is that California citizens are the real assets in California. And right now those citizens face an unemployment rate disproportionate to the rest of the nation. The real victims of California’s climate change war are the average citizens who are the true engine of economic recovery and prosperity.
United Nations Climate Change Conference delegates can certainly follow Schwarzenegger’s example in implementing subnational environmental regulations. But they follow California’s lead at their own economic peril.