By Matthew Skwiat, Contributing Editor
August / September 2014
No topic is more controversial right now in American politics than global warming, and California is one of the leading states calling for green initiatives to combat climate change.
California governor and Irish American Jerry Brown recently attended a conference in Sacramento, organized by the Foundation of Agricultural Economics, to draw attention to the devastating impact of global warming on the world. This comes days after a study in the Geophysical Research Letters journal found that Antarctica is losing about 160 billion tons of ice each year, adding fears of global sea level risings.
Brown said at his conference speech, “We have to adapt because the climate is changing. We must find a way to live with nature, not collide with it.” One of the ways Brown is adapting is by cutting greenhouse emissions, enforcing California’s cap-and-trade program, which places limits on emissions, and by investing in electric cars, public transportation, and infrastructure. Brown’s feisty passion owes a great deal to his Irish heritage. His great-grandfather had emigrated from Ireland, and Brown journeyed last year to Tipperary to reconnect with his Irish roots.
Governor Brown is also calling for change across the country and around the world. He has traveled to China to garner support for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and this summer will travel to Mexico as part of a trade commission to press leaders to reduce emissions. Following California’s lead, eight states have passed legislation calling for the reduction of carbon emissions, with nine Northeastern states adopting cap-and-trade policies.
Brown has doggedly campaigned for further recognition of the consequences of global warming as his state continues to fall victim to a record drought and wildfire season. As the summer stretches onwards, the California droughts continue to plague the state. Brown linked the growing threat of climate change with the droughts and wildfires in California. He was recently featured on ABC’s “The Week” where he said, “we’ve got to gear up. We’re going to deal with nature as best we can, but humanity is on a collision course with nature and we’re just going to have to adapt to it.” Brown remains optimistic that his state will lead the way, saying “in California, we’re not only adapting, but we’re taking steps to reduce our greenhouse gases in a way that exceeds any other state in the country, and we’ll do more.”
Connecticut is also making significant strides against global warming, efforts that were spearheaded by Gina McCarthy (now the head of the EPA) who as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection from 2004-2009 helped push through the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008 to reduce 10% of greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by 2020.
According to a report released by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Connecticut has already achieved more than half the reductions required by the 2020 act.
Governor Dannel Malloy said, “Connecticut is doing its part to slow global warming. In fact, we are a national leader in efforts to reduce the amount of carbon emissions being put into the atmosphere.” And then this past June, Malloy signed into law Public Act 14-200 that enacts a three-year moratorium on toxic fracking waste in Connecticut. Activists in favor of the bill had garnered over 7,800 signatures and over 3,000 handwritten letters.
Fracking has been highly controversial across the country, with many congressmen and activists noting its harmful side effects to the water supply and environment. Fracking was thought to be a cheap way to release gas and oil from the earth, but it creates millions of gallons of toxic, potentially radioactive wastewater at every well and is largely unregulated by the federal government. Over the years, films such as Gasland and numerous books and articles have been written condemning the potentially harmful practice. The Connecticut bill will hopefully be one amongst many in the upcoming months. Representative Jonathan Steinberg of Westport congratulated Malloy on the passing of the bill and concluded, “This law will help protect the health and safety of residents across the state, while sending the message that our water resources are of paramount importance. I am proud to know that Connecticut is now at the forefront of states taking action on this critical issue.”
Connecticut, like California, remains committed to environmental change and will hopefully be leading the way for other states to follow suit.
Malloy and Brown are just two of many Irish-American public servants who are committed to lessening the impact of global warming on the world.