Climate 101 – S1E1: Lessons from California: Where we’ve gone wrong that other states can learn from, as well as where we’ve gone right

Audio by: Megan Bergeron | Writing by: Marie Hogan, Alexandra Jade Garcia  | Socials by: Wangyuxuan Xu

Mary Nichols is the former chair of the California Air Resource Board. Nichols was first appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2007 and was again appointed by Governor Brown in 2011 and served as chair till December of 2020. From 1999 through 2003 Nichols also served California’s Secretary for Natural Resources and was appointed by Governor Davis. Outside of her work in California, Nichols has served as a senior staff attorney for the Natural Resource Defense Council, Assistant Administrator for U.S. EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, as an advisor in President William Jefferson Clinton’s administration, and headed the Institute of Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. Nichols has had an successful forty-five year career as an environmental lawyer and has played a critical role in both California and the U.S.’s progress toward healthier air quality. 

Louise Bedsworth is the Executive Director at the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment at UC Berkeley. Bedsworth also serves as a Senior Advisor to the California-China Climate Institute. She received her B.S. in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences from the M.I.T and her Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from, along with the M.S. in Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley. Bedsworth worked for over a decade for the State of California and served as the Executive Director of the Strategic Growth Council. In this position, she worked with multiple state agencies and departments to support sustainable communities, environmental stewardship, social equity, and strong economics. 

Aimee Barnes serves as a Senior Advisor at the California-China Institute at UC Berkeley. Before this role, she worked as a senior advisor for Governor Brown and served as Deputy Security at the California Environmental Protection Agency. Barnes has worked for over ten years on climate change solutions and environmental sustainability with a wide range of experience in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Throughout her career, she worked as a climate change policy advisor for the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and received the U.S. Energy Education and Empowerment Government Award in 2018 for her work in advancing climate solutions.

The California-China Climate Institute  (CCCI) is a UC-wide initiative that works to further climate action through joint research, training, and dialogue. The institute is jointly housed at UC Berkeley School of Law through its Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment. CCCI is chaired by former California Governor Jerry Brown and vice-chaired by Mary Nichols. The institute is partnered with the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University, and the two universities work together to cooperate and implement climate solutions at all levels. 

The California Air Resource Board (CARB) is the state center for monitoring and protecting clear air quality. The board works to reduce exposure to harmful air pollutants, monitor air quality, vehicle emissions, and promote health and environmental justice for Californians. The organization’s achievements are a reflection of bipartisan efforts to clean our air through legislation and regulation of the industry and public. CARBs mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare and ecological resources while also considering economic effects in their work. One of their current goals is to reduce childhood asthma rates, as many communities in California, such as Richmond, still have Athens rats above the national average. 



Ethan: Welcome to Climate Break’s Climate 101, where we talk to experts to get the basics on various climate topics. I’m your host, Ethan Elkind. Today, I sat down in a roundtable with California’s trailblazing climate leaders Mary Nichols, Louise Bedsworth, and Aimee Barnes to talk about lessons from California: where we’ve gone wrong that other states can learn from, as well as where we’ve gone right. Mary Nichols is the former head of California’s Air Resources Board [CARB] under multiple governors. Louise Bedsworth ran California’s Strategic Growth Council and is now at U.C. Berkeley Law. Amy Barnes was a senior advisor to California Governor Jerry Brown and is now an adviser to the California China Climate Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law. Let’s listen to the conversation.

Ethan: We are pleased to be joined today on Climate Break by three California climate all-stars, who each helped take the lead to implement key aspects of the state’s pioneering climate policy. And this is a special Climate Break 101 episode where we’re going to go through California’s successes and failures, what it’s done on climate, what it still needs to do. And for listeners who are unfamiliar with California’s climate policies, the state has set in statute ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, most recently to achieve 40% below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. And there’s also an executive order for the state to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. So first, I wanted to start with you, Mary, to ask where you think the state has made the most progress in achieving these goals in your opinion and what you want to specifically highlight that you think has been a real success for California in these goals? 

Ms. Nichols: Going back to the early 2000s, California began to put together a comprehensive climate program. It was the first in the country, and it still is the only program that deals with all aspects of climate. So there was a series of legislation which starts with creating an inventory of where greenhouse gasses were coming from within the state, a program that originally set up a voluntary registry which then became permanent and led to the creation of AB 32, which first legislatively put the state on track to match its goals against those of the United Nations of the world. We’ve set ever more progressive goals based on the science and what science consensus, scientific consensus, showed is needed to actually achieve it. The first set of goals, the legislative goals, were actually met early, so we succeeded in reducing emissions to 1990 levels before 2020. And now we’re developing plans to meet the next set of targets, the 2030 targets, which are much more ambitious and much more difficult to achieve. But I think it’s in this area of devising strategies, putting together a mixed portfolio of regulations and economic incentives that has really distinguished the California program, because it’s not just one set of rules or one approach. It really looks at the very complicated role that greenhouse gasses play in our society, how embedded they are in our economy, and attempts to devise strategies to deal with them across the board. So for a state, even one with the size of California to have done that, has put us at the head of the pack when it comes to governmental entities that have actually tackled the problem of climate change. 

Ethan: And Mary, just to follow up on something you said, I think it’s interesting that you start with the measurement first. You know, you really can’t regulate something until you first measure where greenhouse gas emissions are coming from and how many, how much total emissions we have. Any lessons learned from that process in California? Because that would be true for any jurisdiction just starting out on this to start with the measurement. So any recommendations? 

Ms. Nichols: Well, over the years, we have met with people from around the world to talk about how they could address climate change from their perspective. And we always start with the monitoring, measurement, verification piece of it. It can be the most controversial and difficult, but actually it’s not as hard as you might think, particularly when it comes to the major pollutant that we look at, which is carbon dioxide, because that is directly correlated with fuel burning. So if you know how much gasoline is being consumed, you know how much oil and gas is being burned in your factories and in your power plants, if it’s coal or fossil fuels, you know essentially how much CO2 you’re emitting into the atmosphere. The only thing that actually made California’s measurement problem difficult, and which is now going to be something that the whole world is going to have to deal with, is that we took responsibility for emissions that were generated by power plants out of our state, outside of our state, that make electricity that we import into California. And if you look at the complexities of the global economy and the goods that we ship back and forth around the world, coming up with an allocation system that says whose job it is or how they’re going to go about reducing those emissions, you really have to have a lifecycle approach to the greenhouse gasses. And that is a much more complex issue from a legal regulatory perspective, and even a philosophical perspective. 

Ethan: So, Louise, let me turn to you. I know you most recently, before you came to join us at Berkeley Law CLEE, were Executive Director of the Strategic Growth Council with land use being the big sector in terms of how the Strategic Growth Council operates. And with your expertise on land use, that’s such a big part of the climate change puzzle, is having climate smart land use in all of those different ways. I’m just wondering what your take away from California’s experience to date has been with trying to foster more climate smart land use, as well as any other comment you want to make about California’s progress on climate more generally to date. 

Dr. Bedsworth: Thanks. Yeah, I think, I mean, really building off of what Mary talked about, which is California establishing this very robust framework and approach for addressing climate change that really came from state, from the legislative action, regulatory actions. What we did at the Strategic Growth Council is really try to think, how do you from the ground up? So at the community level, start building the climate solutions to help meet those goals. And so I think California has done a couple of really important things here that have made a real difference. One is starting to build much more integrated approaches to investment. So thinking about how do we link housing and transportation together so that we are placing affordable housing near jobs and services in schools, but then also think about broader investments in the communities. So how do we get people onto bikes and safely walking or into transit? And so I think that’s been a really important evolution, as well as thinking about how we invest in the conservation of land as another part of the climate solution. So really, we don’t want to–limiting sprawl development, but then also looking at maximizing the values and benefits of preserving land, both for the storage of carbon but for other ecosystem services and benefits. So I think that’s been a really important piece of California’s climate progress, is really marrying that very top down approach with a community-led vision. And I think with that, then, to focus on equity through that work. And so ensuring that we’re investing in communities that have experienced, been overburdened with pollution and toxics, but really bringing them along as part of the climate solution that is driven by their vision, their priorities. And so I think that has been a really nice piece to what California’s been doing. 

Ethan: And Louise, you talked about the importance of community led efforts on this subject. But it seems like it’s a challenge for the state because so much of land use is controlled by local governments or private landowners. So given that dynamic, what are your thoughts about the best path for the state to try to influence land use policies, given the decentralized nature of the governance? 

Dr. Bedsworth: Yeah, I mean, I think that always remains a challenge and I think the state has done a number of things. One is to try to build in a set of incentives, so, investment programs that really put a priority on the kind of land use we want to see to address climate solutions. We’ve also seen a number of legislative pieces going through the general planning process through the California Environmental Quality Act, to both provide direction for how local planning is done, but then also to build in further incentives for different types of development. So again, I think even in that land use space, trying to build together this bottom up and a top down approach to encourage certain practices. 

Ethan: All right. Well, Aimee, you’ve done a lot of work internationally on climate policy, both from being out of state government but also being within state government. And I’m curious, just from your experience, what lessons do you think are the most valuable from California’s experience on climate to date for world leaders to take note of? 

Ms. Barnes: Well, I think Mary really charted the path that California has taken, and I think that is a path that we’ve tried to share with jurisdictions around the world through both bilateral cooperation, including with China and Mexico, but also through multilateral cooperation. California helped launch the Under2 Coalition, which is a group of subnational governments that committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement. There are over 200 governments that are now a part of that agreement, and California has done quite a bit of supporting and capacity building to other jurisdictions that are a part of that. And then California has also participated in some of the smaller multilateral forums that in many cases are primarily reserved for countries. So one of them around short-lived climate pollutants, one of them around carbon pricing organized by the World Bank where even other national governments are really interested in the policy approaches that California has taken. And of course, the role that I think California plays internationally has changed over time, depending on the nature of the federal government. And so during the Obama Administration, there was a lot of cooperation and coordination with the administration on helping to stretch towards the Paris Agreement and the goals that we needed to, we all knew we needed to achieve. And then during the Trump Administration, California, I think, really played a role continuing to serve as a beacon and carry the torch forward of progress in cooperation with many other states and cities and local governments around the country, who, through We Are Still In and the U.S. Climate Alliance and a number of other initiatives and forums that were created, really helped continue to share the message with international partners that the US was going to continue on a path of taking action on climate despite what the administration, the Trump Administration, was saying about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. And now, I think, again, we have the Biden Administration in place and hopefully, I think, an opportunity for really unprecedented cooperation between the state and federal government. 

Ethan: And, Aimee, I’ve been to enough international conferences on climate with California leaders, and you guys are always treated like rockstars at these events, where people from around the world want to know what’s California doing? They want to hear from you. Are there certain questions that you tend to get, you know, that are most common that you tend to get about California’s experience from other world leaders? And if so, what are they? 

Ms. Barnes: Well, Mary is really a rock star, so that’s why that treatment is received. I’d be curious to hear her answer to this question, actually, because I’m sure she’s been on the receiving end of more of these questions than I have. But, you know, I think one of the big questions is, how do you do it? There are a lot of questions about the political viability. So how do you do it politically? A lot of questions about the economic impact. So how are you doing it and not harm your economy? And actually, California, as you know, has been able to do this and grow our economy at a rate that outstrips other states across the country, other countries around the world. And I think, so I think there’s just a little, there are a lot of questions about what is California’s secret sauce. And I think the thing is to always kind of demystify it and be clear that there isn’t really a secret sauce. This is a formula, as Mary laid out, that’s very clear that other jurisdictions can undertake and just to share that. And then, you know, I think, of course, there are also often questions about specific programs that we have implemented, a lot of conversation over the past few years around our Clean Cars program, which Mary has been very involved in coordinating with other jurisdictions on. A lot of questions about our air programs, because a lot of countries in particular, when we were beginning our partnerships with China, both at the national and subnational levels, they were really coming at the climate question primarily or initially from an air pollution, air quality perspective. And so those are just a couple of areas where I think we’ve had specific, in-depth conversations and an interest. 

Ethan: Well, Mary, let me ask you that same question then that I asked Aimee, which is, what are some of the common questions you would get from foreign leaders from around the world? And to go a step further, what are your answers to those common questions? 

Ms. Nichols: The first time I had a meeting with representatives of China after I joined CARB [California Air Resources Board] in 2007 to help implement the California Climate Program. After quite a bit of discussion about how we were designing our climate program, it became clear to me that they were overwhelmed by the size of the task that we were talking about. This is China compared with California. California is a big and prosperous state, but it certainly doesn’t have anything like the size or the population of China. It turned out that, in those days, the entire air pollution program for China was less than a tenth of what CARB had devoted just to pollution. And that doesn’t account for the history or the resources that have been provided both by the federal government and local governments through the regional air quality districts in California–all of this funded, almost exclusively funded, by fees on private sector entities. And so one of the first things I had to say to them is, you can’t do this without putting more people into it. It’s not going to be possible. We can help you and we’re happy to share the blueprints, you know, share the tax, share everything we’ve done. But you need to have data. You need to have people who collect the data. You need to have the ability to adopt a regulatory program. And that is going to take putting resources into it. So I think that’s the best illustration that I could really come up with is the magnitude of what we have committed to this program. And it is based on the fact that the climate program in California really grew out of decades of work to address our very serious air quality issues. And the fact that there’s strong public support, public willingness, to pay to achieve a healthier environment. We try to make it as cost effective as possible and to come up with programs which are as positive in terms of the economy as they can be. But over the years there has been an evolution, I think, in the way that we go about actually implementing our goals for the environment. That took a lot of honing, a lot of experimentation. And the world doesn’t have time to replicate that everywhere. That doesn’t mean that we have the answer to every issue. We’re not identical, obviously, to every other part of the world, although we do have within California almost every kind of ecosystem and every economic sector that you would find anywhere in the world, including very rural areas, certainly pockets of real poverty as well as great wealth. So we actually have experienced most of what other countries are going through. But having said that, you know, it took a lot to get to where we are. And I think it’s important that we acknowledge that. 

Ethan: Well, Mary, you make an important point that this comes out of decades of environmental challenges in California and the governmental response to it, and that there’s strong public support in California for improving the environment and addressing environmental challenges. So how much of this is dependent then on political will? It sounds like you’ve been in China in your conversations back in 2007, that might have been a political will question or maybe just not clear about the scale of what they needed governmentally. But how much of this – what should be done then to address the political will question if that is the key challenge? 

Ms. Nichols: I think in any democratic society, there’s only so much that government can do without having a base among the people demanding that action be taken. And the thing that has helped to create political will in places like China and India and other parts of Southeast Asia, et cetera, is the presence of air pollution, which now, you know, makes what we used to experience in Los Angeles look moderate by comparison, with some of the really horrific pollution problems that they face. So it’s the public demand to have health be a primary goal of government action and insistence that government do something to protect people against the ravages of pollution on their health and secondarily on the economy. You know, I was in China not long after this encounter that I mentioned with the official delegation, and going around with young guides in various cities, the well-educated, much-nurtured group of people who are coming into leadership roles, people in their twenties and thirties. Their attitude towards the smog was one of horror and anger and a feeling that their country was letting them down, if they couldn’t do something about this problem. And I think that has made a big difference in the way that resources are allocated, the way the political leadership is addressing these issues. Again, I’d pick on China because they’re the biggest emitter. But this is true in other places as well, that as people become more prosperous, they demand that their environment also be made more livable. 

Ethan: That’s an interesting parallel to California in the US maybe in mid-century last century, in terms of addressing smog. All right. Well, let’s shift gears a bit to the challenge. We’ve talked about some of the successes in California and California spreading its message beyond our borders. Starting with you, Louise, what would be that thing that would keep you up at night, that worries you about what might stand in the way of California having success, whether it’s the 2030 target or the carbon neutrality target? 

Dr. Bedsworth: I think actually what keeps me up at night is probably not as much our ability to make progress towards our targets, but as the pace of climate change that we’re experiencing right now and just the magnitude of the events that we’re seeing in California and I think a really important piece that we haven’t touched on of California’s climate work has been its strong investment in science and research from the very beginning, both in thinking about how we develop climate solutions, but then also how we understand what climate change could will mean for California, but also is what’s happening right now in California. So we have a robust climate change indicators process that, you know, that is updated regularly, but we’ve also done these comprehensive climate change assessments. And these date back actually to the nineties and then were very influential in setting some of the groundwork for the passage of AB 32 and some of our big pieces of legislation, where we had credible scientists who were looking very specifically at California to say, this is what climate change will mean for our water system, for our forests, for our public health, you know. And so that I think has been really important and we’ve updated that information regularly. And I think unfortunately now, you know, we’re really understanding that we’re actually experiencing what we’ve been talking about for decades. And so, just as an example, the 2015 Rim Fire, which was our second largest wildfire in state history, we received a large award to do restoration and recovery from that, is now the ninth largest wildfire in state history. So just in the course of six years, we’ve seen that kind of a shift and change. And so I think what keeps me up at night is really that pace of change in our ability to protect our ecosystems and our people from what is happening. And if you look at extreme heat, I think that is really terrifying when we see, especially, what happened in the Pacific Northwest. And so I think those are some of the really large challenges we have ahead of us. I think we have a really robust framework for meeting our goals. And that’s not to say it’s going to be easy by any stretch, but I think we have to very deliberately and thoughtfully couple that with how we’re building resilience and preparing all of our communities and systems for the change we’re already experiencing. 

Ethan: Well, Aimee, the same question for you kind of metaphorically. What would keep you up at night about California’s ability to meet our climate change goals? Or anything on adaptation as well, given what Louise’s comments were about? 

Ms. Barnes: Gosh, I mean, I think Louise really hit the nail on the head in terms of what is worrying for me, is it’s both the fact that the kinds of the changes that scientists have projected that we would see as a result of increased greenhouse gasses we’re already seeing, and we’re not even, you know, we already have – even if we shut down all sources of emissions tomorrow, we already have baked in further temperature increase. And so just thinking about the frequency and severity of those events continuing to increase is really scary and sad as somebody who’s born and raised in California. A lot of the places and things and just sort of, you know, I grew up going to school in California. My kids – my son is seven now. And basically his entire life, he’s had a fall where he was not able to go outdoors for some period of time because of the air pollution related to fires in Northern California. And just, I think that that’s becoming sort of a norm for kids in his generation who are going to think that that’s just the way things are. That’s really heartbreaking to me. And then I think about, I think the other thing that keeps me up at night is just thinking about the fact that, you know, California has been doing this for so long and is really one of the leaders in the country, in the world, in terms of reducing emissions, and that we don’t have the luxury of time for other states and governments around the world to go through that learning journey on that same time frame. That we really need action, all of them taking action over the next nine to 10 years. And then I think, so that I think, I try to think of myself as a hopeful, optimistic person, but I think that also worries me. 

Ethan: Well, and we’ll talk optimism for a last question, because you want to leave people with a happy thought, but just to stay with the kind of, the challenge theme here. Mary, when you think about California’s climate neutrality goal 2045, supposed to be climate neutral and maybe even ahead of that year, what do you think are going to be the biggest obstacles for California achieving that carbon neutrality? 

Ms. Nichols: There are a whole broad range of obstacles. But the fundamental issue, I think, is that we’re now aware of the fact – not that we ignored it before, but this is not something we can do alone–-many of the big sources of greenhouse gas emissions that we need to tackle are in one way or another under the control of the federal government, like the planes and the ships and the big interstate trucks and the railroad locomotives. That whole piece of the transportation sector, which we are very dependent on as a trading state, are almost exempt. Not quite, but very, very difficult for us to have any major control over. And that’s true of the entire realm of international global commerce that we have to work with, and as much as possible through, our federal government to influence the rest of the world. We can still lead by example, and I believe that there are still solutions that we can pioneer where we can be a model, that then we can spread to others because we can show that there are technologies out there that will help with reducing emissions greatly, but also are things that can improve productivity. And I think about things like food production, for example, where, you know, we are the major producer of a lot of specialty food products and we’re facing huge water shortages as well. And breakthroughs and how we can manage to continue to enjoy some of the wonderful things that we grow here in California, including, of course, our iconic wine industry. And do it in a way that uses less water, less energy inputs, and also, you know, produces a product that people all over the world want to have. Those are the areas that we need to be spending our focus on, I think, and where we have both big opportunities and also big challenges. 

Ethan: Well, Mary, given the challenges you just described in terms of federal preemption and the state’s role as a subnational entity, what would be some of the policy solutions that you would like to see California, maybe through the legislature, implement that could still address our emissions challenges, even given the federal preemption concerns? What are – the kind of the magic wand question, you know, if you had a magic wand, what would be some of the policies you’d like to see implemented, if any, beyond what we have? 

Ms. Nichols: Well, I think the areas where we have not been as aggressive or focused as much of our energy and attention that deserve more, primarily are actually in the area of natural solutions, natural based solutions, and how we deal with those, as well as the impact of increasing urbanization, which, you know, despite the the backflow, if you will, of people who could afford to move to rural places or semi-rural places and work from home because they’re totally wired electronically. The trend towards greater agglomeration of people in cities still appears to me to be irreversible. And if that’s the case, then finding ways that people can live in cities and still enjoy access to the natural world and move themselves around and do it in a way that uses less energy is going to be critical to all of this. So the land use work and the policies that relate to how we maintain and improve the productivity of our natural and working lands are the things where I would want to see the most attention paid. 

Ethan: Well, I know natural working lands was something within the purview of the Strategic Growth Council. And Louise, your work there, thoughts about, is that being the priority for the state going forward? Or do you have other thoughts about what you’d like to see the state do to help us make sure we can meet these long term climate goals? 

Dr. Bedsworth: Yeah, I think the land use question is a really important one, and I think it really is, you know, how do we develop, in efficient ways, that reduce the conversion of land, that reduce energy demand in energy use, transportation energy use, and that are affordable and accessible for all Californians. So I think that is probably one of our largest challenges going forward. And then also, of course, avoiding climate risk and undoing all of that as well. And so I think it’s a complicated challenge in terms of, as you noted earlier, roles the state can play in doing that. And then also how we’re tying regional planning to local planning. And so I think there are solutions that we can be exploring within that realm. So SB 375, which set out a framework for regional planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, A.R.B. looks at that and evaluates it in the scene. It’s not doing what it needs to do and I think there are some solutions in that space that we need to be looking at in terms of how do we start linking what local governments are doing and local general plans are doing to those regional plans. And that’s not an easy conversation. Getting [SB] 375 in place in 2008 was not an easy conversation, but I think we really probably need to revisit that. And then in that natural and working land space, I think it’s also a real question of resources. And I think when you’re looking, you know, how are we conserving and preserving our working landscapes, but then also ensuring that we’re doing the necessary work to have the healthy management of lands. So this is a big challenge in the forest space where a lot of our resources right now are going to fight fires. That is a result of changing climate, but also decades and decades of mismanagement of our forests. And so how do we shift that calculus so that we are also proactively managing for resilience? So, really thinking in a very robust way about what that resource landscape needs to look like. 

Ethan: And Aimee, same question for you. What would you want to see the state do, policy-wise, on climate at this point? 

Ms. Barnes: I guess building on what Louise just said, I think that there is a really incredible opportunity for the state and the federal government to coordinate and align in an unprecedented way. There is going to be, I mean, there already is billions of dollars of funding flowing from the federal government. And presuming that the negotiations in D.C. go well, there will be more funding flowing to states and local governments. And I think if the federal government wants to meet the ambitious goals that it’s now set–you know the Biden Administration has set the goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050, which is roughly aligned with California’s 2045 goal–it’s really going to need to partner with state and local governments to implement that objective. And so I think, you know, that’s not something that we’ve done in the past, either at the federal or state or local level. And so I think really figuring out ways for the federal government and state and local governments to cooperate and coordinate towards the achievement of those goals is going to be really important. 

Ethan: We’ll have to stay tuned on the infrastructure package, in particular on that front. Well, so last question for the three of you. First of all, anything that you want to mention that we haven’t mentioned? Otherwise, I wanted to ask, for listeners who would like to get involved in or learn more about California climate policy, what you would recommend, what you would say to them? So, Mary, I’ll start with you on that one. 

Ms. Nichols: I always encourage people who are interested in getting into climate work to figure out a way to make whatever it is they are doing climate related, because the fact is that our problems that we have created for ourselves are so inextricably woven into every aspect of our economy and our lives that I can’t think of a profession or a job that a person could be doing or could be educating themselves for, that doesn’t have a climate link to it. But, you know, if you’re looking for something to do immediately to become directly active and involved as a voter and as a constituent, to insist and follow up on asking and insisting that our government officials are not just paying lip service, but are actually following through, developing the programs to achieve them and resisting all the various temptations. And, you know, it’s not just villains or, you know, big industry that’s fighting at every step of the way. There are obstacles to change. So being willing to be an advocate and an agent for change is going to be essential and something we need to ask of everyone. 

Ethan: Absolutely. Louise, anything to add to Mary’s advice for people who want to get involved? 

Dr. Bedsworth: No, I think Mary hit on everything and I would just double down on the voting point, which I think is so incredibly important. And, you know, and then I think, just to build on every career, every pathway being a climate career pathway, the other thing I would say, we were just talking about the infrastructure bill, is that every dollar we spend should be a climate dollar. And it’s without a doubt we’re going to need to put more resources towards it. But at the same time, we can’t afford to spend any dollar that is spent in a way that is not aligned with our climate goals, whether that’s reducing emissions, building resilience. And so I’d really love to see us get to a point where that is just the ethos with which we approach everything that we do. 

Ethan: All right. And I would note you got a hand clap from Mary on that. So that’s a thumbs up, for listeners. And Aimee, last thoughts for those who want to get involved? 

Ms. Barnes: I would echo everything that Mary and Louise said, and just also say that we need people who care about climate at every level of government. So it’s not just about voting and holding your elected officials to account, but if you’re interested in being involved in or running for office or supporting campaigns of people who are interested in running for office. Again, there’s no, I don’t think there’s any office across government that’s too big or too small to be focused on this. So whether that’s your city council or your school board or whatever it may be, I think we need people who are passionate about and focused on climate issues at every level of government. So get out there and run. 

Ethan: All right. Well, Aimee Barnes, Louise Bedsworth, Mary Nichols, thank you so much for joining us on climate break. Fascinating to hear from all of you and hope to have you back on soon as we make progress on this issue. I’d love to check in with you and hear your thoughts, but thank you all so much. For more information on climate lessons from California, visit or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Ethan Elkind and this was Climate Break.

Climate 101 – S1E1: Lessons from California: Where we’ve gone wrong that other states can learn from, as well as where we’ve gone right