As he takes office on January 20, 2009, President Obama must deliver on an ambitious campaign pledge to fight global warming. He need look no farther than California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is already leading the way with a dramatic and controversial program to slash carbon dioxide emissions and promote energy efficiency. In this program, NOVA explores the pros and cons of California's bold approach, which could be adopted nationwide during the Obama administration.
To examine the California initiative, NOVA conducts in-depth interviews with Governor Schwarzenegger, skeptics and supporters of the plan, and ordinary citizens and businesspeople whose lives will change significantly when the new regulations take effect. (Hear more of the interviews with Governor Schwarzenegger, policy critic Marlo Lewis, journalist Vijay Vaitheeswaran, and the presumptive future U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.)
Known as AB 32 (Assembly Bill No. 32), California's 2006 law mandates a statewide rollback of carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and a further 80 percent reduction by 2050—goals also shared by President Obama. If implemented in full, California's effort will be the most ambitious to address global warming by any political entity in the world.
The sense of urgency is acute, because California may be particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change. Drought possibly linked to global warming has already resulted in devastating wildfires and chronic water shortages in large sections of the state. California's major population centers are also threatened by rising sea level—another problem linked to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
NOVA details the three-pronged approach that Governor Schwarzenegger is promoting, which calls for improvements in energy efficiency in homes and commercial buildings; increased reliance on renewable power sources, primarily solar and wind; and major upgrades in car mileage.