Oil Companies Leverage Future California Drought in Vicious-Circle Ballot Measure

The Department of the Interior’s water allocations to California farmers eased up this year after a winter that finally brought rain, but long term, California is drying up with catastrophic climate change. And what precipitation we do get in our warmer future will increasing be dumped as monsoon-like rain and drain quickly to the sea, rather than lay around as snow to slowly supply plant-nourishing snow melt through the Spring growing seasons.

Continued use of temperature-raising fossil fuels will warm the climate in the Central Valley, leading to more future droughts and keeping unemployment high among farm-workers. In some farming communities, this unemployment rate has topped 40%. That number drives overall farm unemployment in California to levels not seen since the dust bowl emptied the Plains states,ย  as farms failed due to drought.

Image: Creative Greeniusdrought_bridge
Dried up river in California's Central Valley

As a result of climate change, the number of unemployed farm workers will remain high as each decade gets warmer. Because of climate change, California will no longer have cold enough winters by 2100 to grow many of the fruits and nuts that it now does. The high unemployment among California farm workers raises California’s overall unemployment rate to 12%.

Implementing California’s climate bill, AB32 would help stem continued catastrophic temperature rise in California, because the state has the largest economy in the USA, and what California does, other states eventually adopt too, and then the Federal government does, and that determines what other nations commit to too. โ€œPeople see California as ground zero in this fight,โ€ said Ann Nothoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. โ€œPolluters will do anything to defeat climate legislation in Washington, D.C., even if it means using California as a pawn.โ€

The Texas oil companies’ ballot petition, to be on the ballot this November with the aim of turning back the clock on the clean energy legislation in California, cries crocodile tears over what they claim would be lost California jobs if the state switched to a greener economy. The oil companies just want to “delay”ย  implementing AB32… till unemployment drops below 5%. They call it the California Jobs Initiative.

Californians will vote on the ballot measure – and pick a new governor in November. Only Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown opposes the oil company initiative. As Attorney General, he was able to rename it “Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year.” His likely opponent; Republican Meg Whitman, contends that implementing AB 32 โ€œwill discourage job creation and could kill any recovery.” She wants to delay it, like the oil companies.

Farm unemployment is driven by drought. And drought is driven by climate change. And climate change is driven by fossil fuels. And fossil fuels fuel opposition to climate legislation. And no climate legislation means more drought. And more drought keeps farm workers unemployed. And unemployment among farm workers keep California unemployment rates over 5%.

It’s a perfect vicious circle for oil companies.

Written by Susan Kraemer


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  1. So, where are the environmental organizations on this? I’ve written to 350.org and MoveOn, but no response yet. We need to mobilize. California is one of a handful of states trying to do something about climate change. We can’t rely on the feds as long as the Republicans can filibuster any progressive legislation in the Senate. That leaves the states as a last resort.

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