Misplaced Priorities

Misplaced Priorities

There is much to lament in California and Los Angeles, but the Los Angeles Times recently chose to rub its knuckles Pelosi-style at the lack of focus on climate change in the city’s mayor race.

“Neither Rep. Karen Bass nor developer Rick Caruso mention the issue of climate change on their campaign websites. City Councilman Kevin de León, who made the topic a priority when he was a state senator, also doesn’t mention it on his site. Neither do candidates Craig Greiwe, Ramit Varma and Gina Viola,” says the Times.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Mike Feuer and Mel Wilson, a realtor, “have laid out extensive climate policy plans on their campaign websites.”

The article notes that “policing and homelessness” – issues that directly and presently affect the quality of life in the city – “have dominated” the race rather than climate.

Had the three reporters who wrote the story asked around before they poured themselves into the article, they would have learned that there’s nothing that the Los Angeles City Hall can do about the climate. To make it an issue is a waste of time and resources.

Nevertheless, this city wants to be dependent on 100% clean energy by 2035. And it’s serious. ​LA100, the city’s plan to replace natural gas electricity generation with wind and solar power, “is not a utopian gesture. It is a work plan for a world in trouble,” says Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who is also ​​president pro tempore of the city council.

Nothing like a little demagoguery to cover up the facts, which are:

  • Gross emissions from the state produce only about 1% of the world’s greenhouse gasses. Given that the entire county of Los Angeles is responsible for roughly a quarter of total state emissions, an estimate based on the fact that its share of the state GDP is about 26%, it contributes about 0.25% of world GHG emissions.
  • The cost of transitioning – with no benefits in exchange for the cost – to an all-renewables electricity grid is immaterial to politicians looking to rack up political points, and will land much harder on the middle and lower economic classes than the wealthy Californians and Angelenos who support the green agenda.
  • In the greater Los Angeles area, “the affluent Hollywood Hills, Brentwood and Sherman Oaks zip codes had among the most greenhouse gas emissions,” reports the Mercury News. At the same time, the relatively poorer neighborhoods of Inglewood, Fullerton and Huntington Park, where residents will pay disproportionately for the wealthy’s luxury beliefs, “had some of the lowest.”
  • All the efforts to cut GHG emissions in California will be offset by emissions from China and India, which are building coal-fired power plants faster than Los Angeles can build affordable housing.

Los Angeles mayoral candidates should be talking about more pressing quality-of-life matters. Polls indicate that in addition to the issues of “policing and homelessness,” residents are most concerned about housing affordability, traffic, schools (though a mayor’s influence over the Los Angeles Unified School District is severely limited), recovering from the pandemic, hostility toward business, taxes, and jobs.

Yes, Angelenos believe in large numbers that climate change is a problem. But it’s a distraction ginned up by activists, politicians, and media, and not an existential threat nor looming crisis. Any “solutions” proposed by candidates that would be accepted by Los Angeles voters would not only be useless but also costly, especially to the poor. The next mayor needs to work to make living in Los Angeles easier rather than harder.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

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