California may risk its climate reform progress in the upcoming recall elections. On September 14, California residents will vote to either affirm Governor Gavin Newsom or elect a new governor. Many worry that a loss for Newsom would prove detrimental to both the state and national fights against climate change.
For a long time, California has positioned itself as a leader in the fight against climate change. Past governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown, and Newsom have enacted some substantial regulations to phase out fossil fuels. These gains may be lost if climate change deniers take office.
Climate-friendly policies enacted by the past three regimes include shifting away from natural gas in home heating, limiting tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks, and requiring utilities to source 100% of their electricity from clean energy by 2045. California’s Air Resources Board has also been ordered to lower statewide emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
Election rules state that if 50% of voters choose to recall, Newsom will lose his position as governor. In that case, the seat would go to whichever candidate earned the most votes, even if they didn’t get the majority of votes.
Polls in the past week suggest growing support for Newsom. However, some remain skeptical due to competition. The leading Republican candidate, according to polls, is Larry Elder, a conservative radio host who has said that “global warming alarmism is a crock.” Behind Elder is Republican businessman John Cox, who claims California’s climate policies are detrimental to the economy.
Richard Frank, a professor of environmental law at the University of California, Davis, says “There’s the real potential for a huge shift in direction,” if Newsom loses the election. “California has had substantial influence over the direction of climate policy both nationally and internationally, and that could easily wane,” he added.
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