The Riggs Report: Climate change twins

July 27, 2017

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. Jerry Brown and their common dismay with the White House

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown are separated in age by a decade. They are of different parties. Brown’s time in elective politics dates back to the 1960s; Schwarzenegger’s to a couple of terms as governor.

But those differences between the current governor and his predecessor shrink in comparison to a common passion and priority: their belief in the need to address the effects of climate change.
Both men regularly, if separately, lampoon President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the federal government from the Paris climate accord and criticize his remarks downplaying the effects of global warming.

The pair shared the stage on Tuesday in San Francisco to denounce Trump’s policies and to position California as an example of bipartisan cooperation, engaging in a victory lap over California’s just-passed legislation to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Referring to Trump and his political allies, Schwarzenegger said, “Don’t those conservative Republicans get the message? And can they just think about it for a second and say, ‘Maybe we should stop lying to the people.’ Stop lying to the people! Stop it.”

In many respects, Schwarzenegger’s appearance at the bill signing event on Treasure Island this week was a political flashback. He used the exact same backdrop, with the San Francisco skyline, back in 2006 when he signed AB 32, a landmark environmental bill that mandated reductions in carbon pollution and set the stage for establishment of the cap-and-trade program.

That program requires businesses to limit emissions—a so-called cap—but also allows them to buy permits if they exceed those limits.

AB 32 also placed California at odds with a Republican president—George W. Bush’s administration was not a supporter of mandatory emission caps.

I covered the 2006 bill signing on Treasure Island, and it was, even for Schwarzenegger, an elaborate Hollywood-style event. It included an appearance with then-New York Gov. George Pataki and a satellite link address from then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who addressed the gathering on a giant television screen about the importance of global cooperation.

Schwarzenegger was so enthusiastic about AB 32 that he held a second bill-signing event later that same day in Los Angeles, giving it what I called at the time the “full Arnold” treatment.

Schwarzenegger certainly couldn’t claim bipartisan support at the time. Every Republican in the state Senate voted against AB 32. Every Republican in the Assembly, save for one, Shirley Horton, of San Diego, also voted against the bill.

This year, by contrast, Brown got the support of eight Republican legislators who voted for AB 398, the cap-and-trade measure.
Brown secured those votes, in part, by agreeing to expand a manufacturers’ tax credit and by repealing a fire prevention fee paid by foothill residents that Republicans had long argued was illegal.

Conservative activists are now furious with the eight Republican supporters, which includes Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes.

Despite those distinctions, the fights in 2006 and 2017 delivered a similar political result. Both enabled Schwarzenegger and Brown to engage in one of their favorite pursuits: harpooning the Trump White House’s environmental positions.