Reasons for optimism on this Earth Day

See the Night&Day Pick for information about local Earth Day events.

It’s easy to get disheartened by what’s happening to theEarth. Scientists have warned for decades that the planet is warming and that we must cut back drastically on the greenhouse-gas emissions (mostly carbon) that are causing our atmosphere to deteriorate. But the governments of the world have done relatively little to mitigate and adapt, though human civilization as we know it hangs in the balance.

Still, on the occasion of Earth Day 2013, we thought we’d dispense with the doom and gloom and, instead, highlight three local-born arguments for optimism—they really do exist!—about the future of our planet.

1. California put a price on carbon

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board and one of the world’s most influential climate regulators, led our state through and beyond its mid-November launch of the country’s first ever cap-and-trade auction, a result of Assembly Bill 32, also called the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The auction holds greenhouse-gas emitters responsible for the pollution they put into the atmosphere by selling and trading pollution allowances. The program covers 85 percent of California’s emissions by 2015. At its moment of opening, the auction was instantly the largest emissions trading system in the country and the second largest in the world behind that of the European Union.

2. California (and Sacramento) lead in creating green jobs

A recently released report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals the cool news that “green jobs” have grown nationally, from 2010 through 2011, at a rate four times faster than all other industries combined. The study defines green jobs as those that “produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment” or “jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly.” Though clean-energy jobs are still a small part of the U.S. employment scene overall—it accounted for only about 3.4 million jobs in 2011—it’s stunning to see this sector growing faster than everything else, even health care.

Meanwhile, California topped the list of states producing the most green jobs with more than 17,000 created in 2011 and a total of around 360,000 green jobs. The Sacramento region experienced a tremendous spurt in green-collar jobs between 1995 and 2008, boasting more than any city in the country before the recession. Recently, the region’s clean-tech sector was found to have added 1,000 jobs in 2012, according to the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance, thereby pushing our overall clean-tech job rolls to more than 3,200. According to Mayor Kevin Johnson, we’re well on the way to reach 14,000 overall green jobs by 2020.

3. California rocks on “clean car” rules

In January 2012, the California Environmental Protection Agency oversaw the enactment of sweeping “clean car” rules—the latest in a decades’ worth of clean-air initiatives that seek to literally revolutionize the automobile industry. Well, the changes are underway: The automakers are transforming their products and mission. Some 15 percent of all new cars sold in California by 2025 will emit little or no pollution. Many other states (at least 13) will take California’s lead on clean-car regulations.