On the last day of an international climate change summit hosted by the city of San Francisco, California governor Jerry Brown announced, “With science still under attack, we’re going to launch our own satellite, our own damn satellite, to figure out where the pollution is.” The satellite will be provided by Planet Labs, a company run by former NASA scientists, according to The Guardian.
Brown’s broadside blast was aimed directly at Donald Trump, who has threatened to slash NASA’s budget for climate research missions. California intends to collaborate with the Environmental Defense Fund to collect data on carbon dioxide emissions and methane leaks from fossil fuel operations. That information could then be released publicly for use by state and local climate officials, since federal administrators are hamstrung by pressure from above.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who represented the United States at the COP 21 climate conference in Paris, had some things on his mind at the climate conference. “I am going to tell the truth, and the truth is we are not anywhere near where we need to be with respect to the overall challenge of climate change.” He lambasted the decision by Donald Trump to take the United States out of the Paris climate accord, calling it “one of the single greatest acts of irresponsibility by a president of the United States anywhere at any time.”
Leaders from island nations most at risk from rising sea levels also joined Kerry in warning that the world is doing far less than will be needed to avert catastrophic climate change. “The world has lost, all of us have lost, momentum since Paris in 2015. Although the rate of increase has slowed, we’ve not yet peaked our global emissions. But we must do so by 2020. We really cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados.
A child born today will likely live in a world that is 3º C warmer than pre-industrial levels, Mottley warned, even if countries adhere to the goals they agreed to.
Governor Brown has just signed a bill this week that will mandate all of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free sources by 2045 — the most aggressive goal of any state in the nation. Brown also signed an executive order this week mandating the entire state economy have net zero emissions by that date.
Not good enough, chanted a large group of demonstrators. They are displeased with Brown because he has approved more than 22,000 fossil fuel drilling operations during his time in office, many of them in poor neighborhoods where residents have little if any political power.
“Jerry Brown needs to stop oil drilling expansion and if he doesn’t do that, what kind of leader is he?” said Alicia Rivera, a community activist in Wilmington, a district of Los Angeles with six oil refineries, several chemical plants, scrap yards and hundreds of oil wells. “He has failed in a big way,” she told The Guardian.
Jonathan Pershing, who was the climate negotiator in the State Department during the Obama administration, sounded an optimistic note at the conclusion of the conference. “The story here is optimistic. The question here is does the optimism translate, and can this message get out globally. There is a good broad cross-section of people from around the world, but it’s just a few thousand people, and it’s a problem that’s going to require engagement by millions.”
How to create that engagement is the question no one seems to have a good answer to.