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Steyer/Cisneros Climate Pitch Falls Flat in Los Angeles

By -- April 9, 2015

“Tom Steyer emphasized that ‘three quarters of the public and 97 percent of the scientists believe with us’ that global warming is ‘one of the top three issues’ facing the world. Moderator Terry McCarthy then asked why Steyer spent $4.7 million opposing Republican candidate Joni Ernst in the Iowa mid-term national election only to fail. All totaled, Steyer spent $73 million but ‘greens had a rough time at the polls’.”

Global warming may be a hot, contentious topic. But few people were warmed-up enough to want to hear billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and the former Secretary of H.U.D., Henry Cisneros, address the issue at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council that I attended a week ago at the Intercontinental Hotel in Century City.

Steyer and Cisneros spoke before a small crowd of about 110 people. About half of those attending were young people and Steyer staffers.

Both Steyer and Cisneros told a very different story than the one reported in a recent Gallup poll where global warming was dead last among a number of environmental priorities. But if the small turnout to hear Steyer and Cisneros was any indication, global warming has indeed plummeted in public priority. Past speakers at the LAWAC drew many more and had much more energy such as Elon Musk who attracted 1,200; Bill Clinton with about 1,000 at the Beverly Hills Hotel; and John McCain in 2008 at 500 (well after his 2000 run for President).

Steyer’s new emphasis is on gaining the support of the business community and Hispanics for global warming. Steyer distributed a glossy, spiral bound brochure titled “Risky Business” about climate impacts on California. The brochure was also supported by the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford.

Answering Questions … Sort Of

Moderator McCarthy asked the speakers if global warming had any connection with the California drought? Steyer gave a “well, yaaa”, as in what else did you expect him to say? He elaborated that drought just isn’t about less rainfall and snow but also about rising temperature.

Cisneros then chimed in that the water content of California snowpack had dropped from 28-inches to 1.4 inches this year, a 95 percent drop and an all time historical low, resulting in gasps from the audience. But California drought planning is on a 5-year cycle and the 5-year average water content in snow is about 65 percent of normal. Moreover, no mention was made that the L.A. Times recently reported California has decades of groundwater supplies available.

Cisneros brought up that drought was having a negative impact on new housing construction. A fact check, however, indicates that construction is up 13.5 percent as of Feb. 2015 in Fresno, Bakersfield up 17.9 percent, and Sacramento up 44.7 percent, all areas hard hit by drought (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015).

McCarthy asked about the projected sea level rise in California described in the Risky Business brochure. Cisneros said that the Oakland and San Francisco Airports would be the most affected by a projected sea level rise of 1.5 to 3.5 feet over the next few decades. Cisneros quipped that billionaire Larry Ellison, who is an airplane pilot (and Republican Party contributor), might not be able to land one of his private jets any longer at those airports. The San Francisco Airport is 13-feet above sea level; Oakland Airport 9 feet, 3 inches.

Both speakers spent the night sniping at Republicans about climate change but also solicited businesspersons to get on board with their climate change agenda. Billionaire Eli Broad, who built two Fortune 500 companies, KB Homes and SunAmerica, was in the audience.

The question and answer period was fraught with questions from the audience critical of Republicans about their stances on environmental policies and lauding the two speakers for their efforts on global warming.

One person from the audience commented about “the comical displays” and “clownishness about the future” by Republicans toward global warming. Steyer humorously answered that “he was no expert on the Republican Party”, to the delight of the audience.

Cisneros said Republicans “are on the wrong side of history” because Republican cities like New Orleans and Houston would be hardest hit by sea level rise brought about by global warming.

Steyer denied he was going to pursue supporting an oil severance tax in California in 2016.

The last person from the audience stated that Republicans told her: “Oh, darling, global warming was just something Democrats made up,” again to the delight of the crowd.

Former Mayor of San Antonio, Cisneros responded by praising what Texas is doing to combat drought. Moderator McCarthy sarcastically concluded the evening, saying that it was “delighted to hear that California should be doing what Texas is already doing about drought!”


The moderator did a good job in trying to balance the pro-global warming alarmism crowd who engaged in a religious praise/hysteria meeting. The travesty is that the future of business in California will likely be more, not less, risky because of climate-policy activism. Such policies prioritize computer-modeled artifactual health impacts over creating jobs and an economy that only free-market capitalism can do, as it has lifted people out of poverty in China and elsewhere in world history.

As California economist John Husing, a Democrat, recently stated: “It does our region little good if we create a pristine environment but let people increasingly die of diseases and behaviors fostered by poverty.”

Few people turned out to hear Steyer and Cisneros because global warming has lost the public-perceived moral high ground. Ironically, the speakers were probably right to title their talk: “Global Warming: Bad for Business”.

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