From the Left
by Lance Simmens
Henry Ford once noted “if I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.” President John F. Kennedy told the German Assembly in Frankfurt in 1963 “change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
In an effort to buck the conventional art of short-term thinking, all too prevalent in politics, California is charging into the headwinds of environmental necessity by announcing a ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles in 2035.
The rule, issued by the California Air Resources Board, will force automakers to speed up production of cleaner vehicles beginning in 2026. Once again, the nation’s most populous state will take the lead in combatting climate change by issuing a rule that will attempt to cut in half pollution from cars and light trucks by 2040.
While allowing buying and selling of gas vehicles, the rule will allow automakers to sell up to 20 percent plug-in hybrids, which are gas-powered, by 2035. By 2026, 35 percent of new vehicle sales must be powered by batteries or hydrogen and 68 percent by 2030. These efforts will help to meet the state’s goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
Of course, these are all suggested targets and whether or not they are achievable is due to many factors such as inflation, charging and fuel infrastructure, supply chains, labor, critical mineral availability and pricing and the ongoing semiconductor shortage. While such forward-looking policies all are envisioned with the best of intentions, there is still considerable wariness on both sides of the political equation. On the one hand, some environmental organizations dismiss the policy as too little, too late. On the other hand, there are skeptics who doubt the aforementioned goals are either realistic or needed.
The beauty of our democratic system is that it allows for a level of compromise that in all likelihood splits the differences and in a Solomon-like way incorporates give and take on both sides. Environmental awareness and the ravaging destruction visited upon the planet via climate change has numbed a reluctant and skeptical public into virtually shrugging its shoulders and hoping for the best.
Whether or not these proposed solutions are sufficient to help our planet continue to be accommodating to human existence is unknown, but certainly the awareness of a changing set of consequences from climate change: wildfires, droughts, extreme weather events, sea-level rise, glacial depletion, air pollution, and carbon dioxide release are testing our existence.
As one of the original climate reality ambassadors trained by Al Gore after the release of “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006, I can attest to the rise and subsidence of a movement which was warning the public of severe consequences if we continued to neglect our involvement in what was at first a slow-moving, but then quickly turned into a speedy train wreck.
I have delivered over 100 presentations to audiences here and abroad, and while some efforts, particularly on the solar power, wind, and electric vehicle fronts have captured wider attention, our addiction to fossil fuels and fracking technology have continued to render us hostages to the energy crisis.
Unfortunately, climate change is a critical liability we have left future generations to deal with. Shame on us, and as a father of two millennials, I understand why they have such little faith in our ability to provide long-term solutions that will make habitation on this planet either possible or bearable.
In the beginning of our quest to educate the public, I accepted an invitation to address students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. In preparation, I contacted Dr. Robert Giegengack, a distinguished professor of geology and earth sciences and founder of the Institute for Environmental Sciences at Penn. He had recently written an article questioning Mr. Gore’s efforts, and I was prepared for a confrontation; however I got an education. He brought to my attention that our presentation was flawed due to the fact that we opened with the assertion that nothing less than the survival of the planet was at stake. We were wrong, he insisted, the Earth will be fine and will adapt.
I asked him, well what about the humans? That is very different, he said in a seriously haunting way. Of course, he was right and we changed that portion of the presentation. Just goes to show you we can never stop learning and must adapt to change when it is warranted. We all need to adapt and adjust to the realities of both the moment and the future. Affixing our focus in the rear view mirror is a sure fire way of crashing into the reality that lies ahead. Foresight and technology must guide the way and this is a good start.