4 Reasons Californians Support Strong Action On Climate

It’s too easy to assume Californians support progressive climate policies because their politics skew left. According to one of the state’s leading climate officials, the state once governed by Nixon and Reagan embraces climate policy for reasons tied to its identity.
“Somebody asks why the politics around climate change are more constructive in California than elsewhere in the country,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, in an appearance at Stanford University.
Established by Gov. Reagan in 1967, the board administers California’s progressive fuel-economy standards, its low- and zero-emissions vehicle programs, its cap-and-trade program.
So much more constructive are California’s politics that Sacramento has been unusually resistant to the fossil-fuel industry lobbying that has hindered climate policy in other states and at the national level. When the industry backed a referendum to repeal a progressive climate law in 2010, voters crushed it.
So what is California’s secret? According to Nichols:
1 Resources
“Of course we are blessed with a lot of renewable energy resources of our own which is a good place to start. We do have sun and wind and geothermal resources available to us, which have made it easier.”
2 Experience
“We have the history of having dealt with air pollution that gives us some confidence that we can take on a very large atmospheric problem.”
3 Identity
“This is a place where people come because of the climate—even though the word climate might have a different meaning there—but the fact is that it is our climate that is probably the overriding thing that people actually love about California. They want to come here to see it or to live in it, and if we screw it up—everybody knows, I think, internally, that this is going to lose the state that that we have and and so people are not willing to do that.”
4 Health
“Just based on all the political polling that I've seen over the years, the biggest supporters of some of the toughest programs that we have are not our wealthiest people, they're not the ones who could most pay, they tend to be people who believe that cleaner energy, cleaner vehicles are going to benefit them or their children in the future because they're concerned about their public health. They're concerned about their family's health, and they tie these things together, which is not wrong. It's not wrong to say more pollution coming out of the cars, more gasoline being burned by our vehicles, more people driving in congestion, and continuing to burn gasoline is also bad for people's health.”
Nichols appeared at Stanford before a panel of economists pondering what to do in places less amenable to climate policy:
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