Radio documentary explores the social and economic impacts of adapting to climate change
Rising seas will irrevocably change life near the San Francisco Bay. That’s the premise of RISE: Climate Change and Coastal Communities, a three-part documentary by independent producer Claire Schoen. The final part, “Chuey’s Story,” airs this evening at 8 pm on KQED 88.5 FM.
By Claire Schoen
Chuey Cazares works as a fisherman out of the South Bay town of Alviso. Adapting to climate change may save his town, but it's having unintended consequences for his livelihood.
There’s an old adage that goes something like this: “The human capacity to create technology exceeds our capacity to understand its impact.”
Lots of people have referred to this idea, Einstein perhaps most famously when he said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” Splitting the atom certainly brought us the promise of unlimited energy to run industry and military might to protect the world from Hitler. It also brought us a nuclear North Korea and Fukushima.
For the five desert counties polled, the economy is the top concern, “solar” leads energy choices
Courtesy BrightSource Energy
Here’s the fine print up front: this survey, conducted during December and January, was underwritten by BrightSource Energy, the company that’s building one of California’s largest solar projects at Ivanpah, northwest of Needles in the Mojave Desert. Private capital for Ivanpah came from Google and from CalSTRS, the state’s teachers’ retirement system. It’s an enterprise that’s been lauded by Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown, by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and President Obama.
But just this week, Ivanpah came under fire in a Los Angeles Times story boldly titled “Sacrificing the Desert to Save the Earth.” BrightSource took to its own website to refute the charge that their utility-scale solar effort is responsible for “razing the desert” and pointed to their “low impact design,” a native plant nursery on site and a “Head Start” program for juvenile desert tortoises.
All that said, the phone survey conducted by Probolsky Research, LLC and released today by Vote Solar, a non-profit advocacy group, shows jobs and the economy leading the list of concerns among 52.3 percent of those polled, horse lengths ahead of a host of other woes which only garnered single-digit responses, including “environmental issues.” Only 5.5 percent put that at the top of the list. Continue reading
But what happens after 2020?
A non-partisan analysis of California’s recently approved cap-and-trade program says state regulators at the Air Resources Board (CARB) did a decent job of balancing competing directives, but warns that legislators need to start thinking about what happens after the program runs its course, less than a decade from now.
“The legislature and the Air Board need to provide some certainty of what the regulatory landscape will look like after 2020, so that the regulated community can start planning and making appropriate investments,” Mark Newton of the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) told me in a telephone interview. The state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction law, AB 32, sets a goal of reducing California’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. “AB 32 leaves open the door to changes being made,” said Newton, “but it doesn’t provide any specificity about a new goal that you’ll be reaching after the 2020 goals are met.”
In other words, industries regulated under the program have no idea what will happen after 2020, although the legislative intent — and California environmental history — points to further regulation. It took regulators a solid four years to get their carbon trading plan off the ground, so planning ahead seems prudent.