The LA Times Gets West Antarctica and HSR Completely Wrong
This op-ed from LA Times editorial writer Karin Klein is one of the most appalling things I’ve read in a very long time. She uses the news of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet slowly collapsing to argue against funding high speed rail.
No, seriously. This has to be seen to be believed:
It has to make one wonder why, with billions of dollars a year coming in to California from the state’s cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to spend 30% of it on the high-speed rail project. The train wouldn’t be ready to run for about a decade, and its ability to reduce vehicle miles driven remains to be seen. (Or not, if the state is unable to pull together the legal wins and financial resources to build it.)
First off, the claim that “its ability to reduce vehicle miles driven remains to be seen” is simply not true. It’s a falsehood that an LA Times staffer should have known to check and correct before publishing. If you look at HSR in Spain you’ll see that nearly 25% of its first year demand came from people switching from their cars.
But even if the primary source of California HSR riders is from airplanes, that’s a good thing too because airplanes are also a significant source of CO2 emissions. How she can just ignore that, even in an op-ed, is shocking.
There is a reason, of course. But given the latest scientific findings coming in from one group of climate experts after another, it might be time for some rethinking. The way AB 32, California’s landmark legislation to fight global warming, is written, the proceeds from cap-and-trade are supposed to be used to reduce greehouse gas emissions, not to protect the state against the inevitable effects of those emissions.
Trying to prevent the worst of global warming is still a necessary goal, but Sacramento leadership should be paying heed. It makes sense to amend AB 32 so that a hefty portion of cap-and-trade money is used to protect the coast and help the state adapt to other foreseeable changes, such as drought and worsening fire seasons, as well as stave off as much warming as we can.
This is the Sierra Club California “let the future burn” attitude that is still completely absurd. HSR isn’t about preventing the worst. It’s about achieving lasting, permanent reduction in CO2 emissions. If there’s concern that the cap-and-trade revenues aren’t sufficient to fund all necessary CO2 reduction strategies, the answer is to support more spending to get us there. It’s pretty simple, really.
Spending money on short-term fixes is important, but the effect of those fixes is negated if people continue to fly and drive around the state for lack of an alternative. HSR is essential to maintaining and accelerating the immediate CO2 reductions. That’s why the California Air Resources Board included it in their Investment Plan for the cap-and-trade funds:
Full implementation of existing State strategies will achieve the 2020 reduction target. However, extensive additional strategies are needed both to ensure ongoing maintenance of the 2020 limit – as population and related growth increase after 2020 – and to meet post-2020 goals.
Reaching the 2050 goal (80 percent below 1990 levels) will require far-reaching new approaches to how we plan our communities, how we move people and freight, how we power our State, how industries produce their products, how successful we are in treating waste as a source of energy, and how well we preserve California’s lands and natural resources that sequester carbon.
In fact, CARB published an LA Times op-ed of their own a couple months ago, which Karin Klein clearly did not read:
High-speed rail has the same potential to change the way people travel in California. By 2040, it could reduce car miles traveled in the state by 3.6 billion miles a year, the equivalent of taking 317,000 cars off the road daily. And by 2020, the project is estimated to eliminate between 278,000 and 674,000 net metric tons of greenhouse gases from voluntary emissions reductions, electrification of local rail and other efforts. High-speed rail will be constructed with net-zero emissions and operate 100% from renewable energy.
This statewide rail system would also give rise to transit and pedestrian-friendly development, which, in turn, preserves Central Valley farmland. The city of Fresno, for example, has approved a land-use plan that directs growth to infill and denser development in the city core, while barring expansion into prime farmland on the city’s outskirts. A key element of this downtown development is the future high-speed rail station and its connection to transit.
California is on track to meet its 2020 emission reduction goals under AB 32, and we need investments in rail modernization to help achieve long-term reductions beyond that date. Reducing car travel, promoting infill and transit-oriented development, preserving farmland and open space, and avoiding massive highway and airport expansions are all part of the high-speed rail project and the vision for California transportation.
And yet you have an LA Times editorial writer completely ignoring something that appeared in her own pages in her own uninformed attack on a project that is essential to stopping the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from melting. It’s stunning and depressing.
It’s also a perfect example of why we are facing a climate crisis in the first place. The problem isn’t the deniers, those who refuse to accept that humans are the cause of global warming. The real problem are those who accept that anthropogenic global warming is real but who consistently argue against solutions to stop it. They’re the NIMBYs who place aesthetics over CO2 reduction. The austerity scolds who hate spending money now even though it saves billions, if not trillions, later.
And the real problem are writers like Karin Klein who do not understand HSR, have not bothered to try and understand HSR, have not talked to the experts in Sacramento who understand AB 32, cap-and-trade, CO2 reduction, and HSR – and who nevertheless attack HSR anyway.
If we fail to stop burning fossil fuels, losing the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and with it coastal California, we will know that Karin Klein was one of the people who made it possible. Maybe we can rename the flooded ruins of Newport Beach after her. “Laguna Karin Klein” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?