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10/02/2012 12:28 PM     print story email story  

While Push is On for Candidates to Discuss Climate Change at the Presidential Debate, California Moves Ahead Regardless

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The first presidential debate takes place Wednesday night and groups are working hard to make sure the candidates discuss the most important issues.

The candidates know the questions in advance, but they remain a secret to the rest of us. The first debate focuses on domestic issues and 50-60 million people are expected to watch.

A petition has been going around asking moderator Jim Lehrer (from PBS News) to pose a question on how the candidates plan to deal with the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision - are they in favor of a constitutional amendment banning corporate spending as "free speech"?

And nine environmental groups delivered more than 160,000 petitions to Lehrer urging him to include at least one question on climate change to bring national attention to the issue, on which candidates have been largely quiet.

"To increase citizens' understanding and concern, these issues need to make it onto the political agenda. One way to do that is to include it in the presidential debates, where the audience for politics is much higher," Marjorie Hershey, a professor of political science at Indiana University, who specializes in campaigns and elections, told Bloomberg.

In fact, merely mentioning an issue during a debate can help elevate it in voters' minds. Their "issue agendas" tend to change before and after debates, Mitchell McKinney, a University of Missouri communications professor, told Bloomberg.

The latest polls show that undecided voters want the federal government to take action on climate change and that it will influence who they vote for.

There's been so much misinformation about the role of fossil fuels vs renewable energy, and on environmental regulations - let's hope the moderator gives the country the opportunity to hear what the candidates really think. 

California Moves Forward on Climate Change

Last week, Governor Brown signed 19 bills that promote the use and growth of renewable energy, and now, he's signed two more - this time directly regarding climate change.

The bills address where the revenue will go that's collected through California's cap-and-trade program, that begins January 1. The first auction of carbon allowances takes place before that, on November 14.

In the first year, the program is expected to generate over a billion in revenue for the state - what shall that money be used for? It's already been decided the proceeds will be used to further reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions, but there are lots of ways to do that from high speed rail to energy efficiency, from preserving forests to oceans. 

Thus, one bill directs the Department of Finance and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to set up a bank account and develop an investment plan for the funds. The plan must be approved by the legislature as part of the budget - and it will be reviewed every year.

The other bill requires that 25% of revenue from emission permit auctions go to low-income neighborhoods, which tend to have the lowest air quality. It gives California's Environmental Protection Agency the task of deciding which communities should be targeted.

Revenues can't go into the state's general fund, because then cap-and-trade would be considered a tax and would have to be approved by a two-thirds supermajority of both houses of the Legislature.



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