California Gov. Jerry Brown signed four bills in Fresno on Wednesday that purport to help “disadvantaged,” low-income and minority communities benefit from efforts to fight climate change.
But Brown, the politicians supporting him, and the media covering him continue to show an inability to distinguish between emissions — which largely concern carbon dioxide, a harmless and environmentally necessary gas — and pollution involving substances posing immediate danger to health and habitat.
The new bills complement last week’s overall climate change bill, which expanded the state’s emission reduction targets to 40% of 1990 levels by 2030. The Fresno Bee summarized the new legislation:
The two main bills – Assembly Bill 1613 and Senate Bill 859 – detail how $900 million in cap-and-trade funds will be spent, including a plan to produce more biomass energy from California’s tree mortality epidemic in the Sierra Nevada. SB 859 also would aid programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from farms and dairies.
Two companion bills – AB 1550 and AB 2722 – direct more of the cap-and-trade funds to benefit disadvantaged communities.
Capital Public Radio (CPR), covering the event, noted that “environmental justice” groups suggested that Brown’s climate change efforts fell short because many companies were complying with emissions standards by paying for “offsets” that reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, such as forest projects outside the state. But since “many of the largest-emitting factories are in low-income parts of California,” CPR’s Ben Adler writes, that hurts those communities disproportionately.
Scientifically speaking, that is total nonsense. The actual report released by environmental activists attempts, at least, to make something of a scientific argument, suggesting that “emissions are correlated with harmful air toxics.” But correlation is not causation, and there are other reasons that low-income communities might be more exposed to pollutants. Some poor people are in fact stuck in parts of the state with little economic activity, where pollution is the result of past activity or other factors.
Selling “carbon emissions” as “carbon pollution” is critical to the task of persuading the public to accept new regulations that deliberately increase the cost of energy and also decrease the availability of jobs for working- and middle-class Californians.
And the question of whether or not cap-and-trade funds reach the disadvantaged communities at which they are aimed — or just the state institutions and community organizations purporting to act on their behalf — is somehow left unanswered.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.