19 October 2009

Mary Nichols' Stanford Law School Speech on Leading the Fight Against Climate Change

By Mary Vincent - Follow on Twitter @MaryVincent

Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board, was the Keynote Lunch Speaker at the Shaking the Foundations Conference at Stanford Law School October 16, 2009.
By the way, I initially saw Mary speak at a 2007 UCLA Evolutionary Change in Human Altered Environment Conference where she was Professor of Law and Director of the Institute of the Environment. That conference, where worldwide scientists spoke of habitat and species loss, influenced me to leave an eight-year silicon valley Fortune 500 software career in May 2008 and start Green Star Solution targeted to helping people, businesses, and governments reduce climate emissions and increase biodiversity.
The Stanford Law Students who planned this Shaking the Foundations Conference are definitely walking the talk from an environmental perspective by the lower carbon vegetarian and vegan fully compostable lunches provided. The delicious vegan roasted tofu, sweet potato, and onion sandwich on whole wheat bread was served with water in bottles made from plants! The water bottles are also completely recyclable and go into the same recycled containers for plastic and glass bottles.
Mary Nichols was introduced noting her long list of accomplishments as well as the fact she took public transportation all the way from Sacramento to Stanford which was not easy!
Mary's impressive Keynote included the following highlights:
  • The Earth has only one atmosphere
  • Our Country's emissions are going to affect someone around the world
  • Climate Change is happening now and the facts are documented
  • There is a loss of snow pack in the Sierra Nevada, the snow doesn't fall where it used to, and there is more rain thus more flooding
  • Dryness is affecting trees which makes the areas more fire-prone
  • Foodcrops including the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma won't be able to grow grapes
  • Public Health is affected whereby insects and viruses take hold
  • Those on the lower socioeconomic spectrum cannot insulate themselves or move
  • We need a transformation in the way we use energy
  • We need to break the link between economic growth and development
  • California's AB32 was passed to reduce greenhouse gases 25% by 2020, but it's not enough to get us to the numbers to reduce climate change.  We need an 80% cut over projected growth by 2050.
  • The California Air Resources Board (CARB) was given responsibility to develop a climate action plan. CARB initially reviewed the early actions which were cheap and easy and worked with Advisory groups such as an advisory committee for technology and environmental justice advisory.
  • CARB is leading an inventory of where GHG comes from in the state and is trying to build on existing programs, i.e. energy efficiency. This work allowed California to be better prepared to benefit from the recent stimulus funds.
  • Regarding Transportation, California was the only state allowed to regulate its own emissions standards, and was sued by the auto industry. The good news was California won every case that went to court. However, California still couldn't get a waiver from the EPA. President-elect Obama made a video that said he will support California's position on the issue. As a result, California is still working through the waiver process. The goal is to work through a variety of steps so more fuel-efficient cars come to California.
  • The goal is to tie Programs to Public Health and push transformation of energy system that is safer for everyone.
  • California is anxious to participate in programs across national and international boundaries.
  • Mary believes that investments in Clean Technologies are going to pull us out of the recession.
  • There needs to be more leadership from the international community, but it's not going to happen unless there's a push from below. Localized efforts have been successful in influencing policy.
  • Regarding Cap and Trade and Copenhagen, if the US were to pass legislation, China would not agree to a cap. There may be certain amendments for certain countries to abide by the rules, i.e. reduce deforestation. Agreements with the developing world may give technical assistance. No one knows the final conclusions.
  • Meg Whitman who is running for California governor said she would suspend AB32, however, even if she would try, the legal system would not allow her to do that.
More information on California's Climate Change Program is here.