The overuse of fossil fuels is leading to increased CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, trapping more and more heat and warming the Earth. As a result, we’re seeing more dramatic weather patterns across the globe and the need for climate regulation is being discussed around the globe. Climate policy wonks fall in two camps: the proponents of a complicated cap-and-trade system that sets a firm limit on emissions and the supporters of a carbon tax that sets a fixed price on carbon. California, the ninth largest economy in the world, recently launched a new carbon cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board, is responsible for leading this program, which could ultimately provide a model to support other regional or national efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. At the Stanford Center for Social Innovation’s 2013 Conradin Von Gugelberg Memorial Lecture, Nichols discusses the new cap-and-trade system and the current thinking around regional and federal policies, and what these changes mean for our environment.
Mary Nichols has devoted her career in public and nonprofit service to advocating for the environment and public health. In addition to her work at the California Air Resources Board, she has served as Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) under President Clinton, Secretary for California’s Natural Resources Agency from 1999 to 2003, and Director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles.