In launching their now successful protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s gas hike, the French gilets jaunes (yellow jackets) have revived their country’s reputation for rebelling against monarchial rule. It may well foreshadow a bitter, albeit largely avoidable, battle over how to address the issue of climate change.
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In California the zealous apparatchiks of the Air Resource Board are working overtime to make life worse for most residents — even though the state since 2007 has trailed 35 states in emission declines. California’s gains are further clouded by the fact that the state exports its pollution to other states as well as overseas. And the fires, which produced massive emissions, were made much worse by state’s mismanaged forest policies — and those imposed on federal lands by environmental groups. (Just because Trump says something doesn’t make it de facto untrue).
Ultimately politics may force a shift in these policies. Unlike China, people in democracies sometimes fight back against their governments. Already political leaders in Alberta and Ontario have broken with federal climate policies seen as hurting their provincial economies. In the US many states, including left-leaning Washington and Colorado, rejected such things as carbon taxes and bans on oil drilling, in part due to concerns over energy bills.
Like Macron and leaders elsewhere, the woke folks running California may not escape a citizen rebellion forever. There’s already a major lawsuit against climate policies brought by 200 veteran civil rights leaders on behalf of mostly minority working class voters. In the trial deliberation Attorney General Xavier Becerra has all but admitted that the state does not consider class or race as relevant in climate policies which may not play so well with that part of their own political base.
Hopefully grassroots pressure will shift the policy agenda. Already some environmentalists are approving of trimming the forests. Others are proposing more expenditures on resiliency — coastal walls, dispersed power systems, better storage of water — to meet the challenges presented by climate change.
The world, California included, needs to respond to the climate challenge with a pragmatism based on realism and respect for citizens’ aspirations. No democratic society can be expected to openly impose a radical decline in living standards; that has already been made clear in France, and may be shape politics here in the US, and even here in California, for years to come.
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