SF Chronicle editorial: A climate pilgrimage

Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle
[Editor:  The San Francisco Chronicle ran three (!) stories on the Vatican Conference on climate change, including two rather stiff challenges to California Governor Jerry Brown.  See below for one.  See also: As California pumps out oil, Gov. Brown says world must cut back … and SF Mayor touts green vehicles at Vatican conference.  – RS]

Climate change road trip for Jerry Brown and Ed Lee

Editorial, The San Francisco Chronicle, July 21, 2015 5:16pm

California is taking its climate change ambitions on a pilgrimage to Rome. The mission amplifies the major steps that have put this state out front in reshaping energy use and also taps into a sweeping papal message on reining in environmental damage.

Leading the tour is Gov. Jerry Brown, joined by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee among some 60 global mayors. The Vatican gathering, which will also touch on human trafficking, intends to build on Pope Francis’ encyclical denouncing the toll from climate change and puts pressure on world leaders to take action at a U.N. summit in Paris in December.

Former Jesuit seminarian Brown put himself in tune with Francis by talking up the “moral dimension” of human-caused problems such as erratic weather, rising seas and dirty air. But he also struck a more earthly note, lashing out at “troglodyte” skeptics who deny the science behind rising temperatures and shifting climates.

California is already a leader in reducing tailpipe emissions, cutting fossil fuel use and increasing energy efficiency, going well beyond national standards. In the next 15 years, Brown wants to kick up the pace: Half of California’s electricity will come from renewables such as solar, wind or biofuels, and gas pump use will drop by half as well.

He told his audience of clerics and politicians that such goals sound “unimaginable” but are needed. Brown lashed out at “fierce opposition and blind inertia” from doubtful lawmakers and dug-in business interests. Brown himself is no stranger to these pressures, giving his blessing to fracking for oil and gas, widely opposed by environmentalists. In his encyclical, Francis also criticized cap-and-trade regulations as too lax, though the carbon-tax mechanism is a bedrock feature of the governor’s energy plans.

The gathering is also chance for other leaders to showcase policies. Lee unwrapped a plan to phase out petroleum in favor of renewable diesel fuels for the municipal fleet by the end of the year. It’s a another step in clearing the air of damaging greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

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