Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law yesterday two new bills that require California to slash greenhouse-gas emissions to “40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,” though it won’t offset warming in any measurable way. The new regulations, SB 32 and AB 197, would force emission cuts in all areas of work and recreation, from what you drive to what you eat.

They also give local air officials the ability to roll out new regulations while not spelling out what the rules would actually entail.

One expert told the Sacramento Bee that if California stopped emitting all greenhouse gases tomorrow, it wouldn’t “change the global warming picture.”

Leading by example

The new laws are about three times more zealous than 2006’s AB 32, which required bringing emissions to the same levels as 1990 by 2020. So far the state has become a test case that other governors are watching closely, just not following.

Brown's supporters say the new laws are an example of California being a political leader, a familiar refrain from President Obama after he ratified the Paris climate accord without the senate's approval.

And while California has some of the country’s highest payroll and state taxes, it also has the toughest fuel regulations in the country. Plus many of the targets listed in the new laws rely on technology not widely available, such as affordable vehicles with zero emissions.

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‘Coercive power of government’

The new laws, described by Brown as the “coercive power of government,” will create more regulations that businesses will have to face, plus higher taxes to meet the renewable energy goals.

The new legislation also favors certain private sectors over others, which critics call capricious and part of the global warming gravy train.

Already the legislature is feeling the heat of public backlash as Gov. Brown institutes long-term goals to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that won’t put a dent in warming. And because California represents a tiny amount of all greenhouse gases emitted worldwide, even zero emissions wouldn’t slow warming.

That’s according to Jeffery Greenblatt, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who adds: “But we set a huge political example.”

Impact on economy

Critics note the new laws will kill business, cost jobs, and raise taxes. The California Chamber of Commerce said the legislation places the strictest caps on emissions, but “doesn’t give any consideration to how it impacts the economy.” Even the U.S.

Supreme Court said the EPA had to consider economic costs when rolling out new greenhouse-gas regulations. Businesses that will benefit from the new laws are in the clean energy sector, such as electric car makers, solar and wind power, and alternative fuels.

The law also goes after California’s agriculture industry by targeting methane emissions from farm animals and landfills. Methane is thought to be 23 times more potent than CO2. Even Democratic lawmakers say that the aggressive new regulations will have little impact if companies flee California for more business-friendly states.

Denying science or denying reality?

Brown, now in his fourth term, has previously linked California’s drought to climate change, despite numerous studies showing it’s the result of natural variations and years of water mismanagement. He blamed the recent spate of wildfires on global warming, though most of those were caused by a serial arsonist. When signing the laws on Thursday, he also took a few swipes at those who don’t support his climate crusade: “I don't want to be partisan, but these guys deny science. Anybody who lies like that should not be listened to.”

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