Working Together to Fight Climate Change


LWV-PA 6th Annual Climate Change Forum
Saturday, April 1, 2017
First United Methodist Church
500 E. Colorado Blvd.  Pasadena, CA 91101

LWV strongly advocates reducing climate emissions now, before there is irreparable damage to the Earth and its inhabitants. From the LWVUS website, “Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our generation. The League supports legislative solutions, including setting caps on greenhouse gas and carbon pollution, encouraging conservation and renewable energy and investing in a new clean energy economy.… The League works to build grassroots support for action on climate change nationally and at the state and local levels in order to avoid irrevocable damage to our planet.”

Post-election US energy policy is uncertain, but there is a strong possibility that some vital policies will be eliminated or degraded. How can California and its citizens effectively influence the federal policy outcome? If federal policy becomes less supportive and/or more restrictive, how can California achieve its greenhouse gas emission goals? The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has the responsibility for meeting CA Senate Bill SB32 climate emission goals of cutting California greenhouse gases 40 percent below their level of 1990. Climate scientists believe that global emission reductions at this rate will be required to limit global temperature increases to 2° C.

Our first speaker, La Ronda Bowen, CARB Ombudsman, will present “Meeting California’s SB32 Emission Goals in an Age of Federal Policy Uncertainty.” She will educate us about current California emissions achievements and plans, the policy roles of California and the United States, and challenges if California takes over some of the federal roles.

Successful government climate regulations and carbon pricing depend critically on energy research and development (R&D) to provide cost-effective technology. Our second speaker, Nate Lewis, Caltech chemistry professor, will give an “Overview of Global Low-Carbon Energy Technology” and discuss the Caltech/Berkeley “Fuel from Sunlight” R&D.

“Fuel from Sunlight” uses sunlight energy to split water into oxygen and renewable, carbon-free hydrogen. This laboratory research has achieved the initial goal of being 10 times more efficient than natural photosynthesis. The remaining goal is to produce cost- effective hydrogen on large scales, thus providing cost-efficient energy storage.

Finally, Edward Avol, Professor of Clinical Medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine, will present “Global Human Health Effects of Climate Change,” examining climate change adaptation. For example, increased temperatures and humidity promote the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes, but modern science is developing genetic modifications to mosquitos so that they can no longer carry disease.

The climate forum is a free public event, coordinated by LWV-PA with ten cosponsors. League members are encouraged to attend as part of their preparation for grassroots advocacy and action.

—George Null, LWV-PA Natural Resources Director

This year’s forum included a short ten-minute speech by Congresswoman Judy Chu on recent post-election federal climate policy developments. She emphasized the challenge posed by federal government climate deniers and her intention to support the US climate change science community.

There were three scheduled speakers. The first was La Ronda Bowen, California Air Resource Board (CARB) Ombudsman, who reviewed California’s climate policy, achievements, and plans. The new policy goal is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Transportation produces 35 percent of total GHG emissions and electric power used to transport water accounts for about 40 percent of electricity used. The speaker urged attendees to reduce their carbon footprint by conserving water and choosing zero-emission or low-emission vehicles.

Caltech Chemistry Professor Nate Lewis presented historic data relating GHG levels to global temperatures and reviewed the Paris climate accord. Finally, he described the Caltech/Berkeley research and development project “Fuel from Sunlight,” which, if successful, will use sunlight energy to efficiently disassociate water, producing carbon-free hydrogen for fuel-cell vehicles and power-plant energy backup. He identified the potential benefits of an efficient all-renewable energy system, which would eliminate fossil fuels by economic competition. He emphasized that potential EPA federal funding cuts could delay or eliminate “Fuel from Sunlight” R&D, that state funding may be needed, and that Governor Brown will probably have to redeem his pledge that California would act if the United States doesn’t.

Keck-USC Professor Edward Avol discussed the effect of climate change on human health. He said that climate scientists predict many more extreme-heat days and that expected warmer, moister conditions will produce more mosquitoes. He described the resulting increase in mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika.