Climate and California: An Update from Sacramento

Wade Crowfoot, deputy cabinet secretary and senior advisor to Governor Brown, talked last night at Google about how California is addressing climate change. Crowfoot is bright, articulate, and engaging. Acterra sponsored the talk.

He started by asking the audience whether they’re optimistic about climate change, drought, and high-speed rail. For example, do folks feel that the planned high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles is “visionary or a government boondoggle”? The audience was split 50-50 on climate change and high-speed rail and mostly pessimistic about the drought. Crowfoot wants everyone to be more optimistic about all three areas.

The principal effect of climate change on California is that California will be warmer. When we have droughts and warmer weather, plants need more water, intensifying the impact of drought.

California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 32 requires a sharp reduction of carbon emissions. Crowfoot showed photos of several kinds of new, centralized, renewable energy plants that are largest in the world, illustrating the growth of renewable energy. Sources of carbon are being taxed as part of the Cap-and-Trade Program, raising $1B this year and up to $2B next year. These funds will be used to further expand renewable energy.

AB 32 sets targets to reduce carbon by 2030:

  • Half of energy from renewables
  • Reduce petroleum use by 50%. This is challenging since California has 31M cars. Only 120,000 cars are electric currently, so we have a long way to go.
  • Double building efficiency. Upgrading standards for new homes is easier, but the city of Berkeley is tackling efficiency of existing buildings.

Crowfoot left a lot of time for questions.

He defended the high-speed rail project. For vision, he cited the Golden Gate Bridge and the University of California system as now-venerable institutions that barely passed when they were created. The rail link provides a way for the interior of California to grow as the coast has. He thinks it’s reasonable to electrify the Caltrain tracks and have the high-speed rail and Caltrain share the tracks on the peninsula. Caltrain gets faster, electric trains, and the travel time between San Francisco and Los Angeles would still be less than two hours. The high-speed rail would travel at the same speed as commuter trains between San Francisco and San Jose and then go faster between San Jose and Los Angeles.

On fracking, we’ve been pumping liquids into the ground to enhance oil pumping a long time. Fracking and pumping oil produce methane, a hydrocarbon. We need to understand fracking better, and there are studies.

We need to move to distributed energy generation and energy storage. We need to incentivize utilities to update the power distribution grid, which is 1950s technology.

Agriculture uses most of California’s water, and Governor Brown’s recent executive order didn’t cover agriculture. First, we have to measure agriculture water usage in order to manage it. Encourage water markets to shift agriculture water to urban users. The current California water rights do not encourage holders of senior water rights to conserve water. The State will move to curtail all water rights in the near future.


Published by


I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s