December Film: CARBON NATION

December film: Carbon Nation

When: Wednesday, December 12, 7 pm; Where: Peacock Theater


Carbon Nation, a peppy documentary directed by Peter Byck, is perfectly timed given the urgency of the climate crisis publicized in the recent IPCC report. It is addressed to Americans who already believe that we must make drastic changes in the way we live as a nation and as individuals. But even more, it is targeted to those who do not care or are antagonistic toward talk of global warming. That is why you will see spokespersons for large corporations, the military, and entrepreneurs stating that a low-carbon economy is good for business. Byck has gathered an astonishing and varied group of American citizens to educate us about solutions to the very-real crisis we are facing. It’s pragmatism is appealing across the political spectrum. It celebrates solutions, inspiration, and action.


The most enthusiastic and hopeful believer in a low-carbon economy and its positive impact on poor people is Van Jones, a civil rights activist who founded Green For All which brings new jobs in this burgeoning field to disadvantaged communities. A magic moment for him is watching trainees of Solar Richmond & Grid Alternatives installing solar panels in a California home.

Another activist is Bernie Karl, a geothermal pioneer in Alaska who has found a way to use 165 degree water to create geothermal power. He has come up with what many are calling a game-changing technology which can wean us from dependence on oil.

Dan Nolan, a former army colonel, shares the workings of the Green Hawks, people in the U.S. Department of Defense who are pushing the Pentagon’s move toward energy efficiency and sustainable power. There is a competition among base commanders around the US to become the first net-zero-energy base, to create all the energy they use, to use water in the most efficient manner, and to have bio-waste energy generators on base. Being off the grid makes the military more resistant to terrorism.

Cliff Etheredge, a rancher in West Texas, brags about the money he and others are making by leasing their land to wind companies. This project of green energy has brought new life back to a dying community.

Others featured in this engrossing documentary talk about:

  • the benefits of white roofs (Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld),
  • the search for a biofuel replacement for jet fuel (Richard Branson),
  • the generation of energy at or near the site where energy is used (Amory Lovins),
  • the fact that going green will save U.S. companies millions of dollars and create many new businesses (Thomas I. Friedman),
  • the benefits of plug-in hybrid cars (R. James Woolsey),
  • and the challenge of making energy efficiency in homes and offices universally accessible (James Rogers).


The consensus view of these movers and shakers in American society is that climate change can be dealt with before it is too late, but only if citizens, politicians, scientists, and businesses all work together on some of the solutions presented on Carbon Nation.

It is 84 minutes long. Sorry, no captions.


Plastics: A Two-Edged Sword

By Brad Waite

Plastic touches all of our lives.  It’s convenient, flexible and lightweight.  For all its usefulness, plastic is a two-edged sword.  It’s tough to recycle.  It breaks down, but doesn’t biodegrade.  It’s clutter is everywhere.

There’s an even nastier, more perilous side to plastic.  Its production and use is a significant source of greenhouse gases (GHG).  Increased levels of GHG causes environmental degradation and health problems.

As a society, we must accelerate efforts to reduce production of GHG.  Many are addressing this by driving greener cars such as electric vehicles, opting up to MCE’s Deep Green 100 percent renewable power offering and taking public transportation more. Hopefully, we’re doing all of the above. There’s more to do.

Moving Beyond Hybrids, Wind and Solar Energy

Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) recently discovered several greenhouse gases are emitted as common plastics degrade in the environment or are intentionally burned. The biggest problem with plastics is that they don’t biodegrade, certainly not within a human lifetime. Biodegration means the process whereby bacteria in the soil transforms an item, like wood, grass and food scraps, into other useful compounds, such as beneficial compost. However, bacteria mostly ignore plastic.

For example, a plastic bottle takes at least 450 years to completely decompose. Plastics don’t biodegrade. They do photo-degrade, when exposed to sunlight.  According to the University of Hawaii SOEST study mentioned above, “plastic is known to release a variety of chemicals during degradation, some of which have a negative impact on organisms and ecosystems.”  They discovered the unexpected production of GHGs methane and ethylene when the most common plastics are exposed to sunlight.  Methane warms the planet by 86 times as much as carbon dioxide (CO2), according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, significantly accelerating the speed with which our planet itself degrades.

Reduce Your Reliance on Plastics

Thus, the world’s heavy use of plastics is a major environmental issue.  The story doesn’t end there.  Plastic is negatively impacting both wildlife and human life. As plastic degrades, it brakes down into smaller and smaller pieces.  Wildlife, especially marine life, ingest these particles as food, ultimately killing them. I expect these micro-plastics (MPs) will be discussed in more detail in future Earth Matters articles. The smallest of MPs, nanoplastics, have begun showing up in drinking water.

Bird feeding on plastic netting

We all need to take concerted action to reduce our use of all forms of plastic as quickly as we can. Yes, being diligent about recycling our plastic is helpful, but only to a certain extent as it is becoming increasingly difficult to recycle plastic for several reasons. First, China has outlawed its acceptance of used plastic and they historically have been the United States’ biggest destination for it. Secondly, most plastics can only be recycled once. Thus, it is imperative we greatly reduce its use in the first place.

I realize how we all became addicted to using plastics. Most plastics make our lives better in some way, from plastic bags at the grocery store, plastic beverage bottles, even the plastics used to make our synthetic clothing. They’ve become so ubiquitous in our lives that we don’t stop to realize the prices we as a society are paying to use them. I suggest we each start by taking an inventory of all the plastics in our lives. Then decide which we can stop using, or at least radically reduce our usage of. We must start now.

Ways to Learn More

Weather is increasingly becoming more extreme.  The pace of change is accelerating. All reputable climate scientists attribute the changes primarily to the build-up of greenhouse gases (GHG) in our atmosphere and oceans.  Human burning of fossil fuels increases GHG. For those climate deniers reading this, I direct you to the website titled “Climate Change Evidence and Causes: An overview from the Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.”

In addition, everyone concerned about the state of our planet should watch the documentary Merchants of Doubt.  The film makes a compelling case that the fossil fuel industry is using the playbook developed by the tobacco industry decades ago. The industry denies culpability, then obfuscates as long as possible by executing a well-coordinated misinformation campaign.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, August 29, 2018 edition.  Email Brad Waite at

Residential Solar and Virtual Net Metering

Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Virtual Net Energy Metering (NEMV) were the highlight topics at the November 2018 Sustainable Rossmoor general meeting. Resident Norm King described his experience having NEMV installed in Mutual 48. Jeff Parr, owner of Solar Technologies, explained solar basics, how NEM and NEMV work, their installation and considerations.

NEM and NEMV is a bill crediting system for community solar. It refers to solar installed on a roof shared among residents. NEM is good for single family or town homes. NEMV is for condo or multi-unit complexes.

Mutual 48 Solar and NEMV Installation

Norm King shared Mutual 48’s experience making solar available to all of its residents, regardless of whether or not their individual manor has a south-facing or shaded roof. The process started in 2015 with all member meetings to learn advantages of solar, determine support, and adopt a “fairness principle.” In 2016 24 homeowners signed up, PG&E requirements were met, and building and fire permits were applied for. By the end of 2017 MOD, and building and fire inspections were completed. In 2018 there are significant electricity bill reductions and CO2 savings. Click here to download the 2-page Word file of Norm’s presentation notes which has an outline of activities for each year.

Norm King describes getting solar in Mutual 48 at Sustainable Rossmoor November meeting.
Virtual net energy metering and solar panel installation on multi-unit complexes

Benefits of Solar

Jeff Parr said residential solar panel systems reduce energy costs and have tax incentives. Plus, we’ll be doing our part to help the environment and combat climate change. It takes 5 to 7 years to recover our investment. Purchasing solar can increase the resale value of our homes by more than $5,000 per kilowatt added. Solar Technologies is the firm developing the one-megawatt solar array for Golden Rain Foundation.

For more information check the California Public Utilities Commission Virtual Net Metering web page (

Human Impact on Ecosystems

By Jennifer Mu

A recent visit to a small country in the South Pacific once again reminded me how fragile nature is, how destructive human behaviors can be, how quickly an ecosystem can be altered or completely annihilated by human activities and what tremendous efforts it would take to save a devastated ecosystem.

Land of Eden 

New Zealand is the last major habitable landmass on earth settled by humans. For nearly 80 million years the land was free of mammalian predators.  Its geographic isolation created created an evolutionary path unique from the rest of the world. Adapting to life in a predator-free environment, the life forms developed no traits to protect against predation. Birds grew larger and flightless (a giant moa could reach 12 feet tall). Trees took their time to mature. Indigenous trees, such as the Kauri, took about 300 years to mature and had a lifespan of over 600 years.

Human Discovery

Then humans arrived. Polynesians (Maori) came first, along with dogs and rats. Europeans came next with Norway rats and ship rats in tow. They later imported numerous pests, including stoats and possums that still plague the land today. In less than 800 years humans destroyed the ecosystem’s indigenous biodiversity that was 80 million years in making.

New Zealand-Carving-Indigenous Woman and Man

Soon after Maori settlers arrived in New Zealand, they hunted the moa and many other large birds to extinction. Today more than 50 indigenous bird species are extinct and nearly 3,000 species of native wildlife are threatened. Deforestation, wetland drainage, introduced predators and loss of habitat through urbanization and development are some of the major contributing factors.

Human Impact

Before human arrival, forest covered more than 80 percent of New Zealand. Land clearing and logging destroyed large tracks of ancient forests and their associated biodiversity. The introduction of browsing mammals, such as deer (for sport hunting) and possums (for fur) damaged the remaining forests. Today, indigenous forests cover merely 25 percent of New Zealand’s total land area.

The devastation extended into the seas surrounding New Zealand. Large-scale sealing and whaling by early European settlers quickly diminished seal and whale populations. Outside observers called for controls. The New Zealand government protected all marine mammals 150 years later.

A Slow Road to Conservation 

People slowly realized the devastating effects of human activities on their environment. Attempts to repair the damages followed, but serious conservation measures did not occur until the mid-20th century. There were early efforts by conscientious landowners to preserve ancient forests. One example is the Riccarton Bush. If you ever visited Christchurch, you probably enjoyed taking a walk through this 15.7-acre native lowland podocarp forest. The landowner donated the forest to people of Christchurch in 1914 on condition the forest be preserved permanently in its natural state.

A predator-free fence, built in 2000, stopped further damage from possums, rats and other pests. The government responded to public concerns about dwindling bird populations and growing tourism with some early preservation measures by the government.  New Zealand created national parks and preservedscenic areas. It designated sanctuaries on mammal-free islands and relocated large numbers of endangered birds to prevent their likely extinction.

New Zealand – pasture and crops
Advocacy Brings Results

The creation of environmental advocacy groups, such as the Native Bird Protection Society and the NZ Forestry League, helped pressure the government to better protect the country’s natural heritage. By the mid-20th century, attitudes changed from exploitation to preservation. The government enacted a series of major environmental protection laws to preserve environmental resources for future generations.

A more recent effort to restore and preserve New Zealand’s native ecosystem is the creation of Zealandia in Wellington. This world-first, fully-fenced urban eco-sanctuary has an ambitious 500-year vision to restore more than 500 acres of forest and freshwater ecosystems in a former reservoir valley as closely as possible to their pre-human state.

Today, New Zealanders are proud to tell visitors about their belief in protecting and preserving their natural heritage for future generations. At the time when right-wing politicians in Washington, D.C., led by the global warming denier in the White House, are doing everything they can to reverse long-established and hard-fought federal environmental protection measures to benefit the wealthy few, I find New Zealanders’ conviction to preserve their indigenous nature for future generations refreshing and encouraging.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News July 18, 2018.  Email Jennifer Mu at

Over-Pumping Groundwater and Arsenic

By Judith Schumacher-Jennings

Over-pumping groundwater in California increases arsenic levels in well water. Groundwater is increasingly used to supplement finite surface water supplies.  Aquifer levels are decreasing due to increased demand and decreased precipitation. Groundwater is one of the world’s most important resources.  Groundwater provides about half of all drinking water globally, including the United States.

The central valley of California accounts for roughly 20 percent of groundwater withdrawals in the United States. The central valley is an arid region that supports a $17 billion agricultural industry. In the region of the valley known as the San Joaquin Valley, groundwater is the main source of drinking water for about one million people.  High water demands stress aquifers, especially during extended droughts.

Arsenic occurs naturally

Arsenic is a ubiquitous, naturally occurring contaminant.  It is present in drinking water of many aquifers. When present in significant amounts, arsenic increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  Arsenic is transported to the San Joaquin Valley from the Sierra Nevada and coastal mountain ranges for millions of years by rivers cutting through arsenic-bearing formations. Clays at or near the surface are the primary host of transported arsenic. Arsenic absorbs onto clay surfaces in significant amounts in the San Joaquin Valley.

As the clays are buried over time, their increasingly restricted oxygen supply reduces arsenic in the clay at depths greater than 200 feet.  The arsenic dissolves into the water in the pores of the clay. Higher levels of arsenic in the aquifer result from anaerobic conditions where oxygen is lacking and arsenic becomes more soluble. These anaerobic conditions occur naturally in thick clay, in manganese and at lower elevations.

California aquifers

In the aquifers of the San Joaquin Valley, the greatest depth typically drilled for groundwater pumping is 1,640 feet. An aquifer consists of alternating layers of sand, gravel and clay. In California, the aquifer system consists of an upper aquifer, a thick clay confining unit known as the Corcoran clay and a lower aquifer. The upper and lower aquifers contain sands and gravels, as well as numerous thin clay layers.

When undisturbed, groundwater within the aquifer primarily flows horizontally through the sediments with highest permeability, typically sands and gravels. Initially, pumped groundwater comes mostly from sands and gravels, which have lower arsenic concentrations.

Arsenic within pumped groundwater of the San Joaquin Valley has been noted for decades. Approximately 10 percent of the wells tested within the last 10 years have shown arsenic. Maintaining water quality is vitally important as groundwater pumping increases to meet agricultural and domestic needs.

Worker adjusting pump gauge
Droughts stress aquifer use

Two long droughts, from 1986 to 1993 and 2007-2015, recently hit the San Joaquin Valley.  During both, over-pumping stressed the aquifer system. The over-pumping sucked larger volumes of water into the aquifer from less-permeable anaerobic clays, inducing the release of pore water with high arsenic concentrations. Groundwater pumping in the San Joaquin Valley has caused declines of about 200 feet in groundwater levels over the past century, leading to subsidence, or sinking of the land, as much as 30 feet from 1925 to 1970 or about eight inches per year.

In addition to groundwater depletion, over-pumping results in land subsidence and increased extraction of pore water from clay layers. Clay drainage causes most aquifer compaction and subsidence of the overlying ground surface. There is thus a link between land subsidence and groundwater arsenic concentrations. Historic subsidence highly impacted historic arsenic concentrations, but has virtually no impact on recent arsenic concentrations.  Arsenic levels slowly return to their original levels after the groundwater pumping decreases. This implies arsenic stops leaking from the aquifer over time. Thus, avoiding over-pumping of aquifers should gradually improve water quality for the San Joaquin Valley.

Reducing groundwater pumping to sustainable levels should decrease both the rate of subsidence and arsenic concentrations.  The aquifers will eventually recover to normal levels of arsenic. With a global trend toward increased use of groundwater, effectively managing water quality along with water quantity is essential to preserve the continued use of this critical resource.

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, August 8, 2018 edition.  Email Judith Schumacher-Jennings at

Source information for this article appeared in the June edition of peer reviewed journal Nature Communications by Ryan Smith, Rosemary Knight and Scott Fendorf.

Coral Bleaching from Sunscreen Pollution

Coral Bright, Wear White – by Melanie Quan

At the October general meeting of Sustainable Rossmoor, guest speaker Melanie Quan spoke about the harmful effects of sunscreen on coral reefs. White tips on coral pictured above are a reflection of “bleaching” and declining coral health (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University). Melanie’s presentation is below.

Coral bleaching resulting from sunscreen pollution has recently been a significant topic highlighted by the news media. While it is true that sunscreens are a cause of coral bleaching, the problem is multifaceted. As guest speaker Melanie Quan, a sophomore at Las Lomas High School, explained last month, the true impacts of sunscreen pollution are still unknown by a majority of the public. Last summer, she attended a science program called California State Summer School for Mathematics & Science (COSMOS) at UC Santa Cruz and worked to analyze the effects of common active sunscreen ingredients.

Based on the accumulation of studies, results show that common organic chemicals in sunscreen such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisilate or butylparaben can exacerbate coral bleaching at concentrations as low as 62 parts per trillion (equivalent to a drop of sunscreen in an Olympic-sized pool!).  Additionally, common inorganic physical barriers in many ‘reef safe’ sunscreens show potential to cause harm by inducing stress through oxidation, making them a less than perfect solution.

Many consumers of ‘reef safe’ sunscreens prefer brands using nano-sized particles or aerosol sprays because they reduce the chalky white look after application. However, these nano-sized particles can be ingested by coral because of their small size, expediting the effects of oxidation and stress on marine life. Thus, while many sunscreen companies have worked to avoid chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate that can rapidly cause coral bleaching, the common alternatives can still cause stress on coral over time.

As conscientious consumers, help us reduce harm to coral ecosystems! By taking note of active ingredients in sunscreens, you can help promote the health and sustainability of coral and marine life. Based on her research, Melanie recommends having titanium dioxide as the only active ingredient in the sunscreens you use. She recommends using non-aerosol, non nano-particle titanium dioxide sunscreens.

This Blog Post written by Melanie Quan.

For more information on coral bleaching, check these web sites from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

What is coral bleaching? When corals are stress by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white. (

Coral Bleaching — Background (


When: November 14 at 7 pm   Where:  Peacock Theater

In this documentary, Patriot Jean Hill (84) took her battle to ban plastic bottles in Concord, Mass, and teaches us what the combination of science along with the charm, courage, and determination of a concerned grandmother can accomplish.

In 1775, Concord patriots fired the ‘shot heard round the world’ that began the Revolution.

Jean Hill

Over 200 years later, Jean Hill is ready to fire the next shot, and it’s directly at the bottled water industry. 84 year old Jean has spent three years trying to get her town to ban single serve bottled water, and this is looking like her last attempt. With strong opposition from local merchants, and a town that has already voted against her three years in a row, will it ever be possible for Jean to win?

“A fascinating, entertaining look at how persistence and citizen action still mean something in a corporate-controlled society.” Michael Moore

Inspired by learning about the amount of garbage that these single serving bottles create, Jean actually tries to do something about it, which is something that we could all learn a lesson from. Divide In Concord follows her efforts to finally ban bottled water in her town, even after her previous attempts have failed.

She’s feisty, and doesn’t let her age slow her down, standing up to anybody who would go against her. Many of us wouldn’t even think of banning bottled water, but the effects of those empty plastic containers are drastic, and Jean won’t stand for it any longer.

The real highlight of the film, besides Jean and her frequently foul mouth, are the arguments against her bottle ban. Complete ignorance of the damage these bottles cause, and the kind of extreme reasons her opponents come up with, are hilarious to listen to, mainly because of how ridiculous they are.


82 minutes. SDH captions.

October Film: Oil and Water

When:  October 10, 7:00 pm    Where:  Peacock Hall

Oil and Water, a multiple award-winning documentary film, is an intimate portrait of two young people finding their voices and trying to beat incredible odds as they confront one of the world’s worst toxic pollution disasters in Ecuador and the Amazon Rainforest.

For decades U.S. oil companies colluded with a corrupt Ecuadorian government to recklessly pollute the land and waters of the Amazon Rainforest.  Native tribes were displaced, much of the local culture destroyed, and cancer and other disease rates increased.

But two teenage heroes emerge among the many that have been fighting throughout the destruction and since.  As the title implies, oil and water do not mix well.  Eight years in the making, this documentary follows Hugo and David on a journey that leads them to explore a more just future for people around the world born with oil beneath their feet.

The film is 72 min. long with captions.

Oil and Water reveals the social and ecological trauma of our global fossil fuel culture and how it shapes the lives of an indigenous population in Ecuador. The film also demonstrates the collaborative, visionary creativity that can also emerge from that space of pain, urgency, and love for humanity and our life support systems. I have followed the struggle of the Cofan people for decades and just when I thought all hope was lost, this film gives me reason for renewing my conviction in the power of struggle, the power of the people hit hardest by environmental injustice – and their allies – to imagine and forge new possibilities.” David Naguib Pellow, Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota, Author, Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice.

“Great film…arresting…Oil and Water is the most complete portrait of how societies might move beyond ‘the oil curse’ to use resources from crude development to benefit the local communities from which it is found. Or, possibly, as a launching point to standardize and regulate best practices in the entire industry…It is a story of recovery but also of the need for aggressive assistance and understanding. Oil and Water puts a very human face on the ground-level of the extraction that is fueled by distant consumers.” Dr. Brian Black, Professor, History and Environmental Studies, Penn State Altoona, Author, Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History.

“An important film–it puts a human face on the very real and severe consequences of our thirst for oil. Yet it also gives viewers hope in the way it shows how two young adults can make meaningful changes to the world around them.” Dr. Benjamin Sovacool, Director of Danish Center for Energy Technology, AU-Herning, Associate Professor of Law, Founding Director of the Energy Security and Justice Program, Vermont Law School, Author, Energy and Ethics: Justice and the Global Energy Challenge.

Official Website and trailer: To see a trailer, go to and click on the documentary’s lead photo.

September Meeting – Recycling: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

Sustainable Rossmoor’s guest at the September meeting on was Jim Nejedly. Jim is the President of the Board of the Central Contra Costa Sanitation District. He is the General Manager of the Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery (Recycling) Center. He described the recycling processes we often take for granted. He explained challenges we face now that China does not accept many recycle materials.

Jim described the Mt. Diablo Recycling Center. The center moves 400 tons of recycling materials daily. Paper represents almost 40% of what the Center recycles. A big problem for recycling is plastic bags. Plastic bags “gum up” machinery. Jim urged the audience to place bags in one plastic bag. He gave several ways we can help the recycling process.

  1. recycle plastics marked with 1, 2, and 3
  2. recycle glass, aluminum, tin, newspaper, and cardboard
  3. rinse and scrape jars and cans
  4. don’t put items like car seats and carpeting into the recycling bins
  5. reuse items.

Jim talked about Recycle Smart. Recycle Smart is developing a system for Rossmoorians to recycle usable items such as clothing. The Recycle Smart web site describes how it is delivering high quality, cost effective solid waste reduction, recycling, and refuse programs. These provide and promote sustainability in our communities. The site has tips and tools for homes, schools, and businesses.

Check the Center’s Facebook page at

Rossmoor Participation in San Francisco Climate March

On Thursday, September 6, Sustainable Rossmoor (SR) members were joined by members of the Democrats of Rossmoor and others at a sign making party for the San Francisco area “Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice” Climate March held on Saturday, September 8, 2018.

A few folks brought their own supplies and snacks to share. Many others used 14 foam boards on sticks supplied by SR. Markers were loaned by Katha Hartley, Democrats of Rossmoor club President. The overflow crowd from Mulligan went out to the patio. People were industrious and artsy. Nine folks created signs to be donated to marchers going empty handed.

Sustainable Rossmoor members were among 30,000 at the march on Saturday, September 8, 2018.







The crowd went from Embarcadero Plaza to Civic Center, demanding racial and economic justice, an end to fossil fuel production, and a transition to 100% renewable energy.

These demands were given to Gov. Jerry Brown ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit on September 12 -14, 2018. The Summit is a meeting of public officials and corporate executives from around the world.

March organizers were from Rise for Climate, Justice and Jobs. Marchers urged support for community-led solutions, starting in places impacted the most by pollution and climate change. March contingents came from over 300 organizations representing environmental and climate justice organizations, communities of faith, immigrant justice organizations, Indigenous-led groups, labor organizations, youth, and many more.

According to the Mercury News, the Global Climate Action Summit “makes California a worldwide flag-bearer on the issue at a time when the federal government is in retreat. The event at Moscone Center, dubbed the “Global Climate Action Summit,”  is something of a swan song for outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown. He leaves office in January, having led California to major gains in renewable energy and cuts in greenhouse gas emissions — all amid a backdrop of record drought, floods and massive wildfires that brought the issue into stark focus.”