As historic wildfires burned throughout California over the last few months, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an unprecedented order seeking to cut carbon emissions statewide by banning the sale of all new gas-powered cars by the year 2035. According to the California Air Resources Board, gas-powered vehicles are responsible for just over 40 percent of California’s carbon pollution as of 2017.
“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” Newsom said in a statement, “Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air.”
The pollution cars create is known to have adverse effects that cause climate change, which have increased the risk and severity of wildfires along the West Coast. Still, many people are calling into question how much of a difference simply banning the sales of gasoline-powered cars in California will have.
“This is a step in the right direction. But obviously, California’s emissions are not alone,” said Panayiota Theodosopoulos, an Urban School science teacher, “It’s certainly not going to change the pattern of wildfires.” In order for that to happen, Theodosopoulos said we have to make bigger changes across the country. “It doesn’t really do you much good to be all-electric, if [the electricity] is coming from dirty rocks,” she said.
Many environmentalists agree that banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035 may not be enough. “It’s part of a much bigger portrait of, ‘here’s how we reshape our pathways and our lifestyles, to have less of a detrimental effect,’” said Rebecca Shapiro, who teaches Environmental History at Urban.
However, just because California alone cannot stop climate change doesn’t mean that banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars in the state is futile. California has the largest GDP in the United States at just over three trillion dollars, meaning economic policies in California are likely to be mirrored in other states. For example, Californians have continuously voted to raise the state’s minimum wage making it one of the highest in the country. Other states have been slower to adopt similar policies. The ban on gas-powered cars in California will not fix climate change or stop the wildfires, but it’s a first step that will hopefully encourage more climate-friendly policies across the United States.
“We love [having a] magic solution that is super easy and straightforward and not tied to anything else,” said Shapiro, “and when we’re talking about the environment, we’re talking about everything being connected.”