California an Economic Model? Not Quite

A significant sub-theme of Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate change conference in San Francisco this month was that California is a living model of how a nation-state can go green while experiencing economic prosperity.

Some Californians take it a step further, contending that going green is itself an economic spur.

Certainly California’s current economy is, at least superficially, booming.

The state’s official unemployment rate is 4.2 percent, a record-low level, reflecting tens of thousands of new jobs being added each month – nearly 50,000 in July alone, according to the most recent employment report.

California’s total economic output is more than $2.5 trillion a year, which would place it fifth in the world were it a nation.

However, the claims that California is a model of green prosperity are somewhat overblown.

California is prospering these days mostly because the nation as a whole is experiencing a record-long economic expansion. The steps it has taken so far to reduce its carbon footprint have been relatively mild, so their economic impact, positive or negative, has been relatively scant.

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