The climate crisis tiptoe through the hectic electoral campaign that lives United States, While California suffers the largest fires in its history and record temperatures that have prompted an ultimatum: to ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles from 2035.
The drastic measure, announced a few weeks ago by Governor Gavin Newsom, pits the richest and most inhabited state in the United States against the president Donald Trump, who, after abandoning the Paris Agreement, prevented California from imposing its own standards against polluting emissions, for decades stricter than those of the rest of the country.
“All presidents, from Nixon to Obama, Democrats and Republicans, have agreed that California should apply more aggressive measures because we have more impact on pollution. This Administration is the first that has not, ”explains Hector De La Torre, a member of the California Air Resources Board.
Newsom took Trump’s decision to court in one more chapter of the enmity between the conservative president and progressive California, a territory that has made the environment its particular battle during the electoral race, which may influence the outcome of the elections in key states.
Epicenter of the climate crisis
With more than 40 million inhabitants and an economy that if it were independent would be between Germany and France, California is presented as the standard-bearer in the fight against the climate crisis that the US government has denied for four years.
The little sympathy that Trump feels for the West Coast is so public that he himself mentions the problems it faces (fires, housing crisis, high cost of living …) as an example of the consequences of a progressive government in the United States.
For California authorities, where a conservative president has not won since 1992, Trump’s policy is a setback in critical areas.
“We have a perspective that includes science and the evidence that climate change is real,” his governor snapped at Trump during a televised meeting in mid-September.
The president visited Northern California in the middle of its worst fire season: it has already registered five of the ten largest fires in its history and in advance, since in previous years the strongest were in October and November.
In August, the Los Angeles and Death Valley thermometers posted record temperatures.
“It will start to cool down, just watch,” the president responded to the technicians who asked him to recognize climate change.
Instead of a meeting between the authorities of the same country, the conversation seemed like a summit of two leaders with completely antagonistic visions and cultures. America’s fracture at its best.
Equally antagonistic was the agreement that the California Government signed this year, on its own, with five automakers representing 30% of the US market (Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo) to commit to the goals. of the state, in opposition to the Trump Administration.
Look at Europe and not the US.
“Many European countries have similar measures, we are more in line with the world vehicle market than the United States,” says De La Torre.
A survey by the California Institute of Public Policy already determined in 2018 that 54% of the inhabitants consider that the state should be a global leader in the environment. Support rises to 67% among Democratic voters and falls to 23% in the Republican circle.
“Californians are more likely than Americans to say that global warming is extremely or very important to them and most are willing to make major changes in their lifestyle,” said Mark Baldassare, director of the institution, about another study made this summer.
That same source indicates that 53% of Californians trust their state government when it comes to environmental issues, while only 24% feel the same about Washington.
Electoral threat to other states
But not everyone shows the same alert. The Republican Party of California saw Newson’s measure as a disservice to his fellow ranks, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, in the middle of an electoral race for the country’s Presidency and Vice-presidency, respectively.
“It looks like Gavin Newsom is trying to torpedo Biden and Harris. Why announce the ban on gasoline car sales in California less than a week before the first presidential debate in one of the nation’s largest auto manufacturing states: Ohio? ”The conservative party tweeted.
Biden needs to appeal to the working-class voters who helped tip the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. Polls indicate that the contest could hinge on fossil-dependent states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.
As a result, some believe that the step forward taken by California will mean another step backward for undecided voters who see the loss of their jobs in daring.
“We have always been ahead of the rest of the United States and many times the world,” says De La Torre.
California is the most important market in the United States, double that of Texas and Florida. And during Trump’s tenure, it has been the bastion against the climate crisis on which the country turned its back, a weapon that presents its double edge in the electoral options of the Democrats.