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The Most Important Political Battle of the Year: No on Proposition 23
Alex Steffen, 21 Sep 10

It may be the most important political fight on the planet, this fall: the battle over California Proposition 23.

Baldly put, Prop 23 is the epitome of anti-climate reactionary politics in America. An astroturf effort financed by oil companies and driven forward by climate denialist groups, it aims to block California's landmark climate action law, AB32. The Trojan horse it uses for this is a professed concern for workers ("professed" because many of the backer of the bill are staunchly anti-workers' rights). Prop 23 ties implementation of AB32 to joblessness, mandating that climate action be suspended until the unemployment rate falls below 5.6% for four consecutive quarters -- and since California has only had a jobless rate that low three times this century, AB32 effectively faces permanent suspension. This is, of course, intentional.

Proposition 23 is about nothing but defense of the unsustainable. Let's leave completely aside the bulls*** claim that AB32 is a job killer -- it's not, and a huge body of evidence now shows that over even the relatively short term climate action can spur economic growth and promote entrepreneurial innovation. Let's leave aside the myriad benefits AB32 will bring to Californians in the form of energy security, climate resilience, improved health and better cities. AB32's benefits are many, and clear. Let's simply focus on the larger effects a gutting a AB32 would have on climate politics

AB32's effect on climate is not so much a matter of direct emissions reductions -- California produces only 1.5% of the world’s CO2, after all -- but rather of precedent. Already, the U.S. is the major impediment in getting a strong global climate deal. Having a successful climate action law in our largest state has inevitably begun to change the national politics on international climate agreements. In addition, having the U.S.' largest state economy driving forward on bright green innovation has fired up competition on sustainable innovation, encouraged other state climate efforts, even influenced provincial efforts in Canada. Finally, California's visibility on climate issues, from Hollywood stars to Gov. Schwarzenegger to venture capitalists and major universities, has acted as a form of citizen diplomacy abroad, showing people around the world that whatever the U.S. Senate thinks, the American people are ready to act. AB32 has already begun to have a real impact.

Attacking AB32 can only be read as a direct effort by oil companies and other vested interests to roll back the clock on climate action. They, probably accurately, perceive AB32 to be the lynchpin of North American climate action in the absence of national legislation. Block AB32, and they not only keep California's economy itself dirty, they also send a scare-gram to politicians across the continent (weakening state and local efforts) and further entrench denialism and corruption in the American national political culture.

On the other hand, defeating Prop 23 and upholding AB32 will send the opposite message: climate action is popular, the debate is over and California's blazing the path all smart local governments will follow. California as a confirmed climate leader can work as a springboard for bright green economic action across the country and around the world.

That makes the fight over Prop 23 the most critical battle being fought politically anywhere in the world this fall. I rarely weigh in on initiatives or legislation (and Worldchanging avoids partisan politics altogether, to the best of our ability), but this is an unusually important ballot choice.

If you live in California, now's the time to get active. Turnout will be everything in this fight: your energy, time and money are needed. There are lots of ways to get involved beyond giving money and talking to your neighbors, from signing up for the No on 23 Twitter feed and helping spread word, to joining the Union of Concerned Scientists' statewide houseparty effort

Even if you don't live in California, you can contribute to the No on 23 campaign. They're up against a multi-million dollar effort: they need your money to counter all those oil dollars sloshing around on the other side.

If the children of the future could vote, they'd cast their ballots unanimously: No on 23.

Feature image on homepage of the "Stop Texas Oil / No on 23" signs courtesy of Flickr photographer Matt Jalbert under the Creative Commons License.

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The California Jobs Initiative (CJI) is an oil corporation farce and fraud. There is no connection, whatsoever, between greenhouse gas emission reduction and the loss of jobs. This notion is an insult to the intelligence of the people of California. In fact, there is job growth in the clean, renewable energy industry. Chevron employs 65,000 worldwide and CJI is not going to change this. The only jobs created by the oil industry are clean-up jobs after oil spills and deep water, blow-outs and pump-handler jobs. CJI will make fantastic profits for the oil industry, increase air pollution, especially in communities around their refineries, and there will not be lower gas prices. Koch Industries, Valero and Tesoro are super Enrons. Since when did the oil companies start to show any concern for the unemployed and their families and for small businesses?

Posted by: Earl Richards on 21 Sep 10

If anything, alternative energy industries are job intensive... ie more employment. The Beyond Zero Emissions report covers this at length.

Are people so foolish as to expect people would get taken in by this proposition 39?

In a short sf story I have been messing about with forever, a background element involves a grass roots protest (in California!) against legislation that effectively squashes home solar (the mechanism I proposed involved safety regulations).

I refer to it as 'the Sunshine Rebellion'. The term has several layers of meaning.

Feel free to make use of it.

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 26 Sep 10

Every single congressional race comes down to being just as important this election cycle. Oh, and don't leave out the governors, either. The desire for many of the Republican candidates to weaken, shrink, starve and gag the federal government is a direct result of corporate influence. They just don't want to be told what to do by anyone, much less a democratically elected Senate/House/President so they are throwing all their might at defeating even the most moderate Democrats.

Posted by: Paul Barthle on 6 Oct 10

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