Collective Responsibility & Action on Climate Change the Answer to California’s Drought

April 22, 2015
Dear Friends,

A variety of statistics have been used to analyze California’s drought, but perhaps the most jaw dropping number reported in recent weeks comes from the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California. According to their estimates, more water was used to grow almonds in 2013 than was used by all homes and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles combined. That’s one gallon of water for every almond grown in California, and the majority of them are exported overseas.

It’s easy to point fingers at agriculture producers in the Central Valley for being the culprits of our water shortage with these statistics. They certainly play a role, but the severity of our unprecedented drought stems from a much broader problem: climate change. Warming temperatures, primarily due to carbon emissions, have led to less snowpack and more water evaporation in reservoirs, worsening our drought conditions and painting a stark picture for future droughts.

So as we approach the summer months and face the worst water shortage in our state’s history, we should be asking ourselves as a nation if we have fully recognized that carbon emissions, not just water consumption, are harming the planet…and what actions are we taking to stall or reverse the warming trends?

I’ve been working hard to do my part in Congress, advocating for national policies that curtail our carbon emissions and encourage the use of energy efficient technologies and renewable energy resources across the board. And while these efforts are not exhaustive, they represent substantial steps in the right direction:

  1. This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to finalize rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants for the first time in history. Power plants account for one third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the EPA’s rules are estimated to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. This is a key component of the President’s Climate Action Plan, and a measure I testified in support of before the EPA. California is already a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and Governor Jerry Brown has said the state is well-positioned to meet and exceed the requirements of EPA’s rules.
  2. I’ve vigorously opposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline because I believe the risks to our environment outweigh the benefits to the American people. The tar sands oil that would travel through the pipeline generates more carbon emissions and is harder to clean up in the event of a spill than conventional crude oil. And although it will create approximately 40,000 short-term jobs, the builder of the pipeline admits that in the long-run Keystone XL will create only 35 permanent jobs. The House has voted to bypass the ongoing review process and provide a special exception for this project 10 times. I’ve voted against every attempt to do so.

  1. A comprehensive plan to address climate change should also include investment in alternative energy and energy efficiency technologies. One policy I’ve spearheaded this Congress aims to save taxpayer money and energy by increasing energy efficiency in federal data centers.

The Energy Efficient Government Technology Act will save the federal government energy and money by requiring the use of energy efficient and energy saving technologies, specifically in federal data centers. Today the world generates more data in 12 hours than was generated in all of human history prior to 2003. When this bill passed the House by a nearly unanimous vote last year, that statistic was for every two days. Ten exabytes of data per day travel our global networks and this rate is growing rapidly. This data must be stored and processed at vast data centers which can be highly energy inefficient, wasting money and precious energy resources. As the nation’s largest landowner, employer, and energy user, my legislation would make the federal government a leader in improving the energy efficiency of its data centers.

As we celebrate Earth Day 2015 on April 22nd, the forward-thinking ideas of its founders—activists John McConnell and Denis Hayes, along with former Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) and Congressman Pete McCloskey (R-Calif.)—live on. The words of John McConnell remain especially prescient. “The world of tomorrow is not foreordained to be either good or bad...rather it will be what we make it,” he said.  On this Earth Day, let’s renew our commitments of shared responsibility and collective action to make the changes that will indeed create a world of tomorrow that honors the earth by safeguarding it.


Anna G. Eshoo

Member of Congress