Tonight on KQED Newsroom. We dive into the state of climate change denialism in America and the readiness of green energy solutions to take over for fossil fuels, top scientists from Berkeley and Yale share their latest research with us and across California.
Businesses are beginning to slowly reopen an economist gives us a look at what the change means for the state, while a business owner shares the struggle of holding on to his dreams in these uncertain times.
Welcome to kqed newsroom, i’m priya david clemons. California’s, unprecedented wildfires have been burning for a month. More than 18 thousand firefighters are fighting 27 blazes that have already burned 3.
4 million acres in the state, the lnu, scu and czu lightning complex fires are all nearly contained, but others are still burning. Strong governor newsom has repeatedly linked this year’s. Wildfires with a changing climate, newsom and other state officials spoke about the fires at length with president trump in sacramento.
On monday, the president has threatened to cut off federal funding to california for poor forest management. Among other issues. During his monday visit, the president refused to acknowledge that climate change is playing a role in the hotter and more intense wildfires a denial at odds with public opinion about climate change.
Joining me now by skype, from hampden connecticut, is jennifer marlin, a professor at the yale school of environment and research. Scientist at the yale program on climate change, communication and joining by skype from oakland is dan caman, a professor of energy at uc, berkeley and director of the renewable and appropriate energy lab also at uc berkeley.
Thank you both for joining us jennifer. I want to start with you, president trump didn’t acknowledge the impact of climate change on the fires. Instead, saying quote it’ll start getting cooler. Just you watch your data would indicate that he’s, not in step with the majority of americans when he dismisses climate change, that’s right.
Actually, 72 percent of americans, based on our polling data of the public, believe that climate change is real, that it’s happening that our planet is getting warmer 72 percent and over 60 percent understand that it’s, fossil fuels and human Activities causing that warming, so he is out of step with the public and and those attitudes have evolved over the 10 years that you’ve.
Been conducting. These polls tell us about that change. Yes, they’ve, been changing a lot. They didn’t change in the beginning of this decade, but for the past five years, people are becoming more and more alarmed.
In fact, we we’ve identified six different public among the general public and about more than half of americans are now either concerned or alarmed. Those are the people most engaged in this issue and so that’s over half the public.
Now, dan, what do you think about this disconnect between the leadership and their dismissal of climate change, and this sentiment among americans the the belief that climate change is a problem? Well, it’s, a very cynical view from the white house as jennifer highlights.
The data is very clear: the public recognizes the difference. We know that it’s when we climate and weather it’s, not that hard for most of us, but the white house seems to be treating this as an opportunity to divide not to unite the country dan.
You have been on the intergovernmental panel for climate change. For more than 20 years, you’ve, been working on united nations reports about climate change. Does the speed and scale of the wildfires and other weather events in our nation over the past month shock.
You no, sadly it doesn’t shock me at all. This is entirely consistent with the forecasts we are seeing not only the horrific fires in california, but last year in australia, there were fires before that in siberia.
This is all exactly in keeping with what the models have been saying now for almost a decade jennifer. Could you share with us a little of how the oil and gas companies are able to exert influence in the white house and on capitol hill in order to continue our dependence on fossil fuels? Well, we know that while the public overwhelmingly believes this is a real problem and overwhelmingly supports action on it.
We know that, in fact, in congress and the white house there is a disproportionate number of people who still deny climate change and deny the reality, and a lot of that is due to the influence of the oil and gas lobbyists on congress in the white house And in many cases in fact, among the public, only 20 percent of people actually deny that climate change is real or they think.
If it’s happening, then it’s caused by natural cycles or the sun, or something like that. It’s only 20 among the public as a whole. But when you look at congress in the white house, it feels like more than half actually or at least half, and that is due to the influence of industry and people who want to maintain the status quo and keep things the way they are with.
Without really thinking about the public’s, health and our safety dan california, currently gets more than 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources like solar and wind, and we have a goal of doubling that by 2030.
. But how much of a change can california have when it comes to climate change? How much of an impact can we have when we don’t have the federal leadership that will help us get there as a nation? Well, actually, california exerts a huge influence.
We were the first state to pass a 100 clean energy target for 2045 and now washington, state, hawaii, new york and new mexico have all followed us with their own versions of the same thing. So there is a domestic impact.
We see it in the positions of the democratic candidates and, in fact the scientific consensus is over. 97 percent of scientists see this as a very clear human cause, climate uh emergency, so california’s.
Stance is in the leadership in the us. It’s entirely consistent with the science and it’s entirely consistent with california’s, out-of-state policies. We have clean energy trade agreements with china.
We partner with european governments where their position is much more aligned between the policies. The economic investment of the science – just like we’re doing here and so california’s. 60 clean energy goal by 2030 is one that we expect.
We will actually hit that early and california is now working to look at how we’ll change that 2045 goal of 100 clean energy, potentially moving that earlier, jennifer tell us about the regional differences you see in your polling and how that plays into American attitudes on climate change, there is a lot of regional variability, in fact, um.
What you think of, as blue states along the coast, tend to have a lot more support and understanding of climate change and support for policies like regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant like reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but in the middle of the country in the midwest.
For example, support is lower, as you might expect, and more conservative states. We also know that when you look at the racial and ethnic differences, so counties that have a lot of latinos, for example in southern texas or new mexico and arizona support for climate action, is really high in those counties and latinos more than any other racial and Ethnic group actually worry about climate change because they are particularly vulnerable, and so we see that in a lot of our maps and what about african-american communities, who have also been disproportionately impacted by environmental injustice? Very similar, also very concerned about climate change.
The numbers aren’t as high as the latino populations, and there may be cultural differences at work there and geographic differences at work, but african-american communities also are more vulnerable than uh communities that tend to be more white and wealthy and while across the Board you’ll, find that many americans, don’t think that they will be personally affected by climate change.
You’ll. Nonetheless, the uh, it might be 50 or 60 percent of latinos or african americans who believe that, whereas white people will tend to give much lower numbers, we’ll, find much lower percentages dan.
Are there energy solutions, technology solutions that can address some of this racial injustice and questions about environmental justice that we see across the nation? Yes, there really are, in fact, the movement to install solar on homes and apartment buildings, and businesses is one that can really be a source of equity.
There’s, a number of non-profit groups in the country that focus on energy efficiency and solar for low-income communities and in those projects we recently did to use national census data. We found quite sadly, that the awareness and the opportunity to install solar was dramatically higher in white majority neighborhoods than it was in latinx communities, which are 30 to 40, less likely and 70 percent less like in african-american communities, which means that while the technology is there, We have not figured out how to do information, dissemination and financing to make it available for lower income communities right.
You certainly think of that as an expensive installation, expensive home item, if you’re going to put solar panels on your roof for many years, i’m curious. The green energy solutions have been kind of a nascent technology.
They haven’t, been ready to really step up and take over for oil and gas. Do you feel that we’re at a at an inflection point now? Are they ready yeah? Actually, we’ve hit that point. A couple years ago, in 2019, 2018, the most commonly deployed energy technologies worldwide were solar and wind, and their prices are now significantly below natural gas below coal and on par with old legacy, hydro plants.
And that means that installing these technologies in affluent and low income communities is much more a function of financing businesses, affluent communities can afford the upfront cost and then reap long-term benefits, and it’s, not just about solar and wind, actually driving an electric Vehicle is much cheaper per mile traveled than a gas powered car when electric vehicles were more expensive than gas cars.
That was a barrier, but now that they’re roughly on par across income levels. This is a technology we can deploy. The trick is we need to get chargers in place because many low-income people, don’t have a driveway.
They can’t do charging at home. They need it to be available publicly like in downtown areas or at work. So these are areas where municipal and federal government can absolutely use clean energy as a tool for climate and racial justice and equity.
Those seem to be hopeful steps. Jennifer. I’m curious in your studies. Do people feel hope when it comes to this question of climate change, do they feel they have the power to make a difference, or is there really a sense of despair uh? We? I think people feel a lot of despair and there actually is a lot of education.
We need to do to help people understand that these kinds of solutions exist, that the technology exists, because people don’t really know what the solutions are. They know that we can limit carbon dioxide emissions and they support broad policies like providing tax rebates.
If you want to install solar panels or buy electric vehicles, everyone support whether you’re democrat or republican, no matter where you live. You support transitioning to renewable energy at the federal or national level.
Even though we’re, not we’re, not investing in that research. At the rate we need to um, but a lot of people don’t know what the solutions are, and so we need to do better as a as a community to to address those in those gaps dan, since the uh science seems to be There, the public opinion seems to be there.
Why do you still feel that science is under attack? Well, sadly, we’re, seeing it we have a director of the epa who has come out against some of the latest science. We see current appointments to the department of the interior department of energy, who are either just simply dead wrong or they are paid off by the industry to come up with these statements that deny the science and i think, what’s saddest to me.
I’m. The child of a historian is that the us used to be a country where we saw problems. We invested in new science technology policy opportunities for justice and we put those into practice in terms of government action in the private sector and for whatever set of of sad reasons.
We currently have a government that seems to be turning away from that scientific us leadership and essentially away from the well-being of their own children, professor dan cammon, at uc berkeley, professor jennifer marlin at yale university.
Thank you both. Thank you. Thank you to learn more about public opinions on climate change, including where you live, visit climatecommunication.yale.edu some bay area, businesses are eagerly opening their doors and rolling out the welcome mat to customers, although on a limited basis, san franciscans enjoyed exercising and getting their nails done indoors.
Once again, marin napa santa clara and san francisco have all moved one step up from the heaviest restrictions shifting from purple to red on the state’s, coronavirus tracking map. But even so many small business owners worry if they can survive while complying with new rules and measures to keep staff and customers safe.
Joining me now by skype from san francisco is joe talmadge, the owner of world gym san francisco, joe thanks for joining us. Thank you. Thank you for having me so you’ve. Had this gym for 30 years, it’s in petraro hill, and you’ve, been through several ups and downs.
Tell me how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted your business in comparison to other challenges you faced well, i think uh, with with the coronavirus in particular, i believe it caught a lot of cut everyone by surprise.
Um, the shutdown came to us, i believe, march 17th. We had no indication prior to that that there was going to be any sort of uh force shut down, so it was quite sudden and quite surprising and uh just stopped us dead in our tracks, and you also thought it was going to be.
For you know. Maybe a few weeks at the most yeah exactly we really thought it was going to be uh. Maybe two weeks a month at the most we really hadn’t contemplated a long, extended shutdown. Nor were we prepared for that.
So how much of a financial hit has this been for you, since you had to shut down in march? Well, it’s been pretty severe and we’re, not even sure. If we’re gonna come out of it whole in the long term, but we did, we did manage to survive.
We uh we lost probably close to a million dollars in the past six months in business and that’s. That’s, real money that was able to pay our our employees. We had you know 15 plus employees, service vendors.
We we had to stop a lot of our services that we had at the gym. So it was. It was quite quite impactful from the financial loss and did you need to lay off employees, then? Yes, we did. We laid out pretty much our entire staff, with the exception of uh of our general manager and uh other than that we really couldn & # 39.
T hang on to to anyone were paycheck protection program loans, uh helpful to you. They they were somewhat helpful, although they came in really late for us in particular, we we applied for them and that was sort of a challenging gauntlet to go through the process of applying for the ep uh when uh, when it finally did come way.
Late later. There were rules and regulations in which you had to use those funds and uh it. Didn’t, make a lot of sense as a small business owner to uh to really be impactful in a helpful way to small businesses.
Did it help you get through this time, or do you feel like that that really wasn’t the benefit you were hoping? It was uh on a scale of one to ten. It was like, maybe a two in terms of being helpful. Okay, how have you managed to hold on until you were able to reopen this week? Well, we our businesses, came to a hard stop.
We just completely shut down operations, so our one of our biggest challenges was uh was, and his continues to be, with our landlord to be able to to negotiate a long-term solution to to the rents that we, you’re obligated to pay, and so That’s.
I think a lot of businesses that’s. Their biggest challenge right now is to is to come up with a workable plan with with the landlords to be able to stay in business joe. It must have come as welcome news that you were going to be able to reopen, even in a limited capacity.
Tell me about your operations now, how have they changed since uh before the pandemic? Well, of course, uh the biggest the biggest uh change has been uh. Only being able to operate at a 10 capacity so that really uh significantly uh limits our ability to serve prior pre-covid.
We were seeing about 800 visits a day, 800 people a day coming into our gym, uh. Now, with with the capacity limits it’s been very, very slow, coming back, people are still nervous about returning to gyms or just out in general, so uh.
Seeing that that low volume of people coming in is has been the biggest biggest change to the witness, i guess i’m curious. What kind of financial assistance would help you from state or federal officials to keep your business or other small businesses afloat? It would be, you know we’ve applied for uh emergency disaster relief with the sba and uh we’ve, not yet gotten uh funding for that, but we’re in the process of of of hoping to get some Sort of financial aid with uh, with the disaster relief program that sba offers very low interest rates and favorable repayment terms.
I think if we can get uh some financing in place with with that, that would be tremendously helpful to us to be able to be able to to get caught back up with the six months of no revenue really joe talmage with world gym san francisco joe Thanks for your time, of course, my pleasure, thank you.
Meanwhile, on capitol hill house speaker, nancy pelosi said the house would remain in session to hammer out a new economic relief bill. That would include federal unemployment benefits, which ended in july, but some question whether a massive relief bill is needed for an economy.
They claim is well on track to recovering that’s. The opinion of our next guest joining me now by skype, from los angeles chris thornberg, the founding partner of beacon economics and director of the uc riverside center for economic forecasting and development.
So chris, let’s. Talk first of all about why you think a new round of federal relief funding is not needed. Well, let’s, be clear about what the first one actually has done and what is done for the future of the economy right now, um, if you look around at the numbers uh and where that money meant almost three trillion dollars, they put into The economy over the last few months, um much of that money – is still there.
It hasn’t been spent. Yet because the big problem in our economy today is you can’t spend money now. What does that mean? Well, commercial banking deposits, for example, are about two and a half trillion dollars higher today than they were six months ago.
We’ve, never seen that kind of fantastic increase in in overall just cash waiting to be spent. What that means, of course, is there’s plenty of dry powder to get the economy going once we get full control over this virus.
From my perspective, the best way of getting the economy rolling again is to get this virus out of the way. Well, there are certainly many people who are still hurting in this economy. Yelp just released its latest economic impact report this week and it noted that of the businesses that closed due to the pandemic 60 or nearly a hundred thousand businesses are not going to be reopening nationally.
So can you talk us through what that impact is of the virus on small and large businesses here in california? Well, i i’ve heard that number as well and here’s, the problem. I have no idea what it means.
We have no context. We don’t know that looked like in 2019, 2018 small businesses turnover faster than any other kind of business. Our economy, there’s, constantly many coming in, and many leaving the economy at any point in time.
Now there’s, no doubt that this pandemic had a severe influence of small businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector. I think small hotels, small restaurants, obviously the personal kill facilities that have been closed down by the various government mandates.
We know these guys are suffering, but at the same time, remember with all that money sitting there that’s been put away because of all the stimulus you know they’ll have business once we get the virus out of the way.
Now some businesses will not necessarily reopen. I i understand that there’s, no doubt about it, but at the same time we have new numbers from the census on business applications and right now, business applications in california are at a 20-year high.
So, even as some businesses seem to be leaving, other businesses are popping up in their place. Overall, we’re clearly on the road to recovery. We just have to yet again it control this virus, although it may not feel that way to everyone, especially as many are struggling in the state.
You know i’d, like to touch base on some analysis that your organization beacon economics just shared yesterday. It states that, despite the relatively vigorous job recovery in the state overall, the state’s.
Major metros will remain behind their previous growth trend. Can you explain what this means and the difference between the coastal and inland regions when it comes to recovery? Right? Absolutely well first thing to keep in mind is with the beginning of this.
We saw a you know: fantastic increase of unemployment rates just to a level we haven’t, seen in a very very long time now that unemployment rate was driven largely by temporary layoffs. Most of those temporary laid off people are actually going back to work, but at the same time some are not some of those turning into permanent job losses.
Those are the ones we really worry about, and yeah it’s, rising a little faster here. In california than is other places, why california well remember the sectors that are being hurt are wrapped around tourism, in particular, and california, of course, because of our our beautiful weather and our, and our great things to do is a has a tremendous amount of tourism.
Indeed, when you look around the state, the highest unemployment rates, the worst decline in jobs have been in tourist centers orange county san francisco places that are not typically very cyclical because they have also have so many high-end centers.
Contrast that, of course, to the inland empire, which actually has seen the lowest uh uh overall decline in number of jobs of any major economy in the state. Again that’s, not a heavy tourism sector out there outside, of course, palm springs and temecula.
You know chris, we just talked with a small business owner here in san francisco, who said that the ppp loan that he received was too little too late. Can you tell me, is there any data out there about how effective that program has been nationally? No because those kind of studies trying to figure out the effectiveness of programs, it takes time to tease out the numbers.
We have to have good data and sadly, at this point in time, it’s very hard to figure out what it specifically done. But with that in mind, i will tell you this again: it’s, not so much that it may have done too much over the last couple months.
Rather it’s. What is done in order to get us prepared for the next round of economic growth? Go back to what i was talking about in terms of commercial deposits. The fact that households have away about one and a half trillion dollars in the last six months, because they’re, not able to spend money on other things, all that money is sitting there and will help the economy get up and going when these Regulations go away and the regulations, of course, will go away when we get control over this virus, but i do want to go back to these unemployment numbers for a moment because you know in california we were below five percent before the pandemic, then we got up To about 16, and now we’re, still pretty high.
We’re at 11.4 percent, which is above the nation’s, average at about 8. So and at the same time, you are firmly convinced that we are through the recession and that we are on a recovery and it’s, a v-shaped recovery.
Can you explain why you believe that? Well it’s, actually already data. You can take the monthly gdp numbers uh, i’m. Sorry, you can take the gdp numbers and create monthly estimates of them. A lot of organizations do it.
But if you take a look at the number very interesting, because this is absolutely the deepest recession in u.s economic history, it’s. Also, the shortest the peak of economic activity was february. That’s.
That’s. Basically, the last month before the recession began, the trough of economic activity occurred in april since april. If you look at anything from consumer spending to industrial activity, to import all the major metric of economic activity, they have zoomed forward.
In fact, if things stay the same in in august and september as they were in july, we’re setting up for a 27 to 28 growth rate in the third quarter of the year. It’s, not going to be like that. It’s actually growing faster than that.
We’re. We’re, predicting about a 35 to 36 percent growth rate in the third quarter. That basically makes up for most of what was lost in the second quarter of the year. Now the employment numbers are lagging, they always do.
We had two kinds of unemployment in this downturn. The first wave of unemployment were people who were upon on temporary layoff. Those folks are going back to work and going back to work rapidly that accounts for the sharp decline in unemployment.
However, people are losing their jobs permanently and that, of course, is causing some of the underlying long-term unemployment to rise. Uh yeah that’s, going to be there and that’ll, take about a year year and a half to get over.
Chris thornberg with beacon economics. Thank you very much, my pleasure. You can find more of our coverage at kqed.org, kqed newsroom. I’m priya david clemens. You can reach me on twitter, facebook and instagram at priyad.
Clemons 2020 has not been an easy year with the pandemic: economic setbacks, remote work, remote school and the wildfires. It is easy to feel some level of despair. Starting this week, we’re, going to bring you a bit of brightness at the end of our show, a look at something beautiful in our community tonight enjoy with us.
The new sight of these socially distanced hearts, which have been painted in several san francisco parks by the sf parks alliance, a reminder of love and caring in this difficult season from all of us here at kqed.
Thanks for watching good night.