Santa Clara County Builds Coalition to Fight Climate Change

When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, backpedaling on a commitment to join 195 other nations in taking on climate change, Santa Clara County launched a campaign to rebuild that commitment—one local government at a time.

Since summer of 2017, the County Climate Coalition, led by Santa Clara Supervisor Dave Cortese, has lobbied county governments across the nation to adopt the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

Supported by a unanimous vote of the county’s Board of Supervisors, Cortese’s office recruited 10 other counties to the coalition in 2017 and early 2018. These original members include jurisdictions in Utah, Colorado, Maryland and New Jersey, and five California counties: San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Alameda, Marin, and Contra Costa. In recent months, five new counties in three additional states have also signed on.

By signing on, county governments would pledge to implement comprehensive sustainability plans in line with the Paris target. These jurisdictions employ hundreds if not thousands of workers and often control major public systems such as transportation, sanitation and health care. “This is not a political action,” Cortese wrote in his initial appeal to counties. “It doesn’t matter what party you belong to or who you voted for in the last election. Climate change affects all of us.”

Santa Clara County has experience with this kind of coalition-building.

Seven years ago, the county brought together 41 cities and counties to oppose Arizona’s controversial law SB 1070, which required police to routinely solicit immigration documents and detain anyone who could not present them. Though the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld the Arizona law, the effort demonstrated Santa Clara County’s power to unite local governments in taking action, Cortese said.

“[We realized] we can put these coalitions together,” he said, “and frankly, we need to, because there’s only a couple of counties that are as big as us, and that are as focused as us on these issues.”

Santa Clara County has nearly 2 million residents, similar to the state of Nebraska.

Still, Cortese is the first to admit that the climate campaign so far has been less successful than he hoped. The original 11 signatures were a start, he said, but they weren’t nearly enough. “Climate change is much more urgent than ‘let’s see if we can build this coalition over three or four years,’” he said. “It needs to be done now.”

Early last year, Cortese reached out to the Climate Reality Project, an advocacy foundation led by former Vice President Al Gore. At the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018, Climate Reality announced an official partnership with the County Climate Coalition. The partnership includes a $170,000 grant from the county to help expand the coalition.

Climate Reality’s model is to train and organize individuals who care about climate change, said Kathleen Collins, the nonprofit’s campaign strategist. The organization has more than 80 chapters nationwide, and has trained 17,000 “Climate Reality Leaders.”

Since the launch of the partnership, the coalition has gained five new members including Humboldt County in California and jurisdictions in Arizona, New Mexico, New Jersey and Michigan. Climate Reality chapters are targeting an additional 35 counties, and have more than 20 pending meetings with county officials, Collins said.

“Each success in one county shows another that they can do it, too,” Collins said. “It sounds simple, but it’s true that success creates success.”

The ultimate goal is to recruit five new California counties and 25 nationwide by the end of the year, the partnership’s agreement states. In addition to the Paris goals, these new counties would also pledge to switch to 100 percent renewable power.

The County Climate Coalition is not the first effort to unite non-federal governments in fighting climate change. At the state level, the U.S. Governor’s Association has facilitated joint climate action for decades, and Michael Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative recently provided a similar forum for cities. Before the county’s campaign, however, there was no comparable organization for counties.

“[Counties] are a layer that policy-makers sometimes forget about,” said Susan Gilbert-Miller, the county’s sustainability director. However, she said, they play a vital role in creating policies and initiatives around large, region-wide issues—issues like sustainability. “Counties are influencers and coordinators,” she said. “They bring cities together to work collaboratively.”

Gilbert-Miller is currently designing a “Sustainability Master Plan” that will guide the adoption of environmentally-sound practices across the county. Earlier in her tenure, she led an initiative to expand infrastructure for electric vehicles, and helped to make 100 percent renewable power available to local cities. These and other projects are a response to the county’s 11 environmental stewardship goals, which were adopted in 2009 and include a 50 percent reduction in energy use and a plan to fully recycle wastewater.

If local efforts like these can be made widespread, Cortese said, the effect on the planet will be real. “[Cities and counties] are a fourth branch of government,” he said. “Our level of government, if you knit it together coast-to-coast, is the United States of America.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information about the number of jurisdictions who are participating in the coalition. Since October 2018, five more counties have signed on to be part of the effort. This story originally appeared on Peninsula Press, a project of the Stanford University Journalism Program. 


  1. I suggest you shut of all the water, all the electricity, and shoot anyone who isn’t out of town by 2030.
    But that will not help climate change, formerly known as global warming, because people are not causing that.

    Now go put your tin foil hats back on.

  2. Here I sit in my new home in the desert south west, with nearly two feet on snow on my front porch and more snow on the way, more snow than has fallen in a single day since records started in the 1840’s. You guys want to follow the Great and Powerful Aoc down the dusty road of stupidity. By- by!

  3. > Still, Cortese is the first to admit that the climate campaign so far has been less successful than he hoped.

    “Cortese admits that his climate campaign was a huge flop”.

    > This story originally appeared on Peninsula Press, a project of the Stanford University Journalism Program.

    ANOTHER reason to revoke Stanford’s academic accreditation.

    • It didn’t initially take off, so he partnered with Climate Reality. Then they were able to get 5 new counties on in the span of a few months.

  4. Welk,why does Cortese work with oil companies who use their money to elect people who would block this plan?

  5. “Fight Climate Change” is the most ridiculous sounding comment emitted in an ocean of inane comments.

    It need not be pointed out to intelligent readers that the ‘climate’ changes constantly; always has, always will. Why try7 to “fight” it?

    The author is simply parroting the UN’s self-serving alarmism.

    The Chicken Little contingent claims they’re being sciency. OK then, let’s deconstruct:

    The “dangerous man-made global warming” hypothesis states that a rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) will trigger a climate catastrophe. AKA: CO2=AGW. That hypothesis has made the rounds for at least the past forty years.

    During that time CO2 has risen by ≈40%. However, global temperatures continue to rise at the same slow rate they’ve been rising since the nadir of the Little Ice Age — the coldest period of the entire 6,000 year long Holocene ‘climate’ that we’re currently enjoying.

    But contrary to endless wild-eyed predictions, there has been no acceleration in global temperatures.

    In fact, not one scary, alarming prediction made as a result of that hypothesis has ever come true. Every scary prediction has been flat wrong; no exceptions.

    The litmus test of any hypothesis is whether it can make repeated, accurate predictions. If it can, then eventually the hypothesis may be elevated to the status of a Theory.

    But if predictions made by a hypothesis turn out to be wrong, as they have been with the CO2=AGW hypothesis, then that hypothesis is falsified.

    The CO2=AGW hypothesis is now just an incorrect conjecture, but it still has scientific value, because scientists now understand they need not waste more time barking up the wrong tree.

    But what about that 40% rise in CO2? Shouldn’t we be worried?

    Nup. For one thing, it’s 40% of an extremely tiny number, measured in parts per million.

    For another thing: on all time scales from months to millennia, ∆CO2 FOLLOWS ∆T.

    The planet continues to warm as it recovers from the depths of the LIA, and since warmer oceans cannot hold as much CO2 (Henry’s Law), the partial pressure causes CO2 to outgas.

    Therefore, most of the rise in CO2 is the result of global warming; it is not the cause.

    The push behind the “carbon” false alarm comes from the government’s desire for a carbon tax.

    It’s been shown that a carbon tax would bring inas much revenue as all other taxes combined, so their craving for passage is understandable (but unethical, since the underlying rationale has been repeatedly falsified).

    But readers can observe this real world test of Goebbels’ “Big Lie” tactic: by repeating a lie over and over again, the public eventually accepts it as the truth.

    Interesting, no?

  6. CO2 has been rising. Is that due to human emissions?

    It is not possible to quantify the answer, since human CO2 emissions are only about 3% of total CO2 emissions. The other 97% are from natural sources, and their year over year changes often exceed 3% of the total.

    Then why is CO2 rising? The answer is obvious to anyone knowlegeable of the cause and effect relationship between temperature and CO2 in solution.

    Another fact: on time scales from months to hundreds of millennia:

    ∆CO2 FOLLOWS ∆temperature.

    Effect cannot precede cause, therefore the rise in CO2 is an effect of global warming; it is not the cause (although a rise in CO2 will produce some incidental warming, but because that is subject to a log scale, it can be disregarded beyond about one-half degree C — a rise that has already taken place).

    The planet is still recovering from the coldest event of the entire Holocene (the Goldilocks ‘climate’ we’ve enjoyed for the past ≈6,000 years).

    The oceans continue to warm as the planet recovers from the LIA, and as they warm CO2 is outgassed due to the change in partial pressure (Henry’s Law).

    Thus, the rise in CO2 is primarily the result of global warming; it is not the cause.

    Finally, there is not one scary, alarming prediction made from the “dangerous man-made global warming” hypothesis that has ever come true. Every alarming prediction has been flat wrong. No exceptions.

    Since a hypothesis is confirmed or falsified based upon its ability to accurately predict the future, the CO2=AGW hypothesis has been decisively falsified, since every alarming prediction has been flat wrong.

    But governments don’t care about science, they only care about M-O-N-E-Y — OUR money, and how they can get more of it from We The People.

    Their latest method is with a ‘carbon’ tax, which would assess a new tax at every stage of the production of all goods and services that produces CO2. That means essentially taxing ALL goods and services repeatedly.

    A carbon tax would create a vast new revenue stream. By many estimates, a carbon tax would funnel more new money into the government than all other taxes combined.

    The electeds and the bureaucracy know this. But the electeds have been reluctant to pass a carbon tax since the average American’s income would not rise. That means the average American’s standard of living would sharply plummet, and the electeds don’t want to be blamed for that.

    So they’re biding their time, while their willing accomplices like the author of this propaganda piece run interference for them.

    The tried and true method of getting the public open its wallets for the gov’t is via some kind of existential alarm.

    What could be a better alarm than a ‘climate catastrophe’?

    But it is a false alarm, and the more educated the public gets, the harder it is for the government’s fellow travelers to keep this false alarm at a fever pitch.

    This ‘climate’ false alarm has been going on for more than forty years now. But there has been no acceleration in global temperatures — one of the central predictions of rising CO2.

    Draw your own conclusions, folks. And keep in mind that the government has never, ever lied to We The People …have they?

  7. So Dave or Mathew, if I buy a gas powered snow blower how much more is the carbon tax going to be verses a battery powered snow blower at the same price, and if its charged by the Native American coal fired up north verses the Nuke plant down south or the solar plant down the road that’s is covered in 2 feet of snow and not working which one should I choose for the lowest electrical price possible?

    I’ll wait here for your answer.

  8. Maybe all the brave people on these committees can go on a letter writing campaign to China:

    Cause they have been using local loophole tricks to build new coal plants equivalent to the entire US coal plant footprint, 259 GW

    And India in on the game too…

    India’s National Electricity Plan (NEP) 2018 assumes 94 GW of new coal-fired capacity will be added between 2017/18 and 2026/27.

    259 + 94 = 353 GWs…

    Holy AOC, that’s gonna take a lot of Ivanpah’s to make up for all those new coal plants, like 1000 of them.

    Ivanpah, nameplated out as a 377 MW net, cost about US$2.2B (on 4000 acres of free land).

    That’s US$2.0T to make up for the coal plant build out China and India, at least what we know about.

    But Ivanpah’s have a dirty little secret, it runs on Natural Gas.

    Over 5 years, Ivanpah has produced 3,254,640 MW-h, but it has consumed 5,790,918 MMBtus of Natural Gas. What’s an MMBtu in MW-h? Well, the inter-tubes says 1 MMBtu is about .29 MW-h.

    So to generate 3,254,640 MW-h, Ivanpah burned 1,679,366 MW-h’s worth of Natural Gas. The transmission loss to get from Ivanpah to where people live, 10%, 20%, 50%? Has anyone seen a report with actual data?

    I haven’t seen a report either on how many desert tortoise, but Ivanpah kills 6000 birds a year. And to my great chagrin, a lot of Roadrunners eaten by Coyotes. RIP beepbeep :(

    It’s almost like “our leaders” are looking for reasons to spend money to keep the debt high and in the meanwhile pretend all this is a good idea…

    When, oh, when will the do-gooder Progressives learn this is all a yuge boondoggle and they are getting played?

  9. I’d think it was just peachy keen if these grifters dug into their own wallets for that $170K.

    Who am I kidding? They wouldn’t be grifters if they had their fingers in their own wallets.

    So now hard-bitten taxpayers have to pay an extra $170,000 for… what, exactly?

    Here’s a true-science factoid for Davey and Matthew:

    On time scales from months to hundreds of millennia, ∆CO2 LAGS BEHIND ∆temperature (for science-deficient activist grifters, that little triangle thingie (∆) means “changes in”).

    Since effect cannot precede cause, the recent rise in CO2 cannot be the CAUSE of rising temperatures.

    So then, why is CO2 rising?

    Glad you axed! It’s rising due to changes in the oceans’ partial pressure of CO2: as the planet continues to warm from the Little Ice Age (LIA) — the coldest event of the 6,000 year long Holocene, which we’re still in — the oceans are not able to hold as much CO2 in solution <–(Henry's Law).

    The oceans contain more than 15X more CO2 than the atmosphere, so it doesn't take much ocean warming to raise atmospheric CO2.

    OK, Davey and Mathew, that's enough science for today. Wouldn't wanna overload your grifting controls…

    …carry on.

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