07/24/2013 06:20 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2013

Climate Change: It's Cosmic Rays on Steroids... or Something

I'm just back from a quick trip to Chicago, which was beautiful and sunny (and reminded me that, California citizen or not, I'm still a Midwesterner at heart). Contrast that with the crazy heat wave that has hammered the East Coast.

Many have asked, Is this heat wave caused by climate change? The answer, as usual, is that it's nearly impossible to link any one event with climate change, but that the frequency of events is almost certainly a result of the warming planet. As Next Generation's Tom Steyer likes to put it, it's like Barry Bonds and steroids: You can't say that any one home run was the result of doping, but you can sure say that Bonds nearly doubling his home run average each year after he started using drugs was related to those drugs.

Last week the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to discuss just this relationship between climate change and frequency -- and severity -- of catastrophic weather events. The hearing, entitled "Climate Change: It's Happening Now," included testimony from Frank Nutter, President of the Reinsurance Association of America. Frank urged senators to follow the insurance industry approach, and start planning for the long-term risks posed by climate change: "We are committed to work with you to address the exposure of citizens and their property to extreme weather risk." Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss) urged "tolerance" for climate deniers, and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) floated the theory that current weather patterns are caused by "cosmic rays."

Luckily, these senators' views don't reflect those of the American people. According to a new survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council, two in three Americans support action on climate change, in particular limiting carbon pollution from power plants as part of the President's Climate Action Plan.

And we have the woman in place to push that ball forward: Gina McCarthy was finally confirmed to replace Lisa Jackson as EPA Administrator, where she inherits the unenviable task of implementing the President's climate action plan -- along with a possible 34 percent reduction in EPA funding.

In California, though, we aren't having this same debate over basic policy action -- not to say that implementing our climate and energy policies is easy! Here's some news on AB32, Prop 39, and other actions in the Golden State:

There are some good articles out this week about AB32, in particular this one from Mary Nichols about how we've learned from Europe how to structure our carbon market so it's stronger than the embattled ETC. Mary focuses on the trend toward "subnational" carbon markets and talks about California's agreement to join forces with Quebec. Maybe a Western states deal is next?

On Proposition 39, take note small school districts: You have the ability to pool two years of Prop 39 funding but only if you get your applications in by Aug. 1! Districts with fewer than 1,000 students can apply for bundled funds here. And everyone interested in following the ins and outs of the program can sign up for California Energy Commission's new Prop 39 listserve here.

We're continuing to kick some butt on solar: The huge Ivanpah project, generating 377 MW of solar power out in the Mojave Desert, will go on line in a few weeks. California now ranks 6th nationally in per capita solar capacity according to a new study by the Environment California Research & Policy Center (I actually would have thought it was higher but I guess we lost out to states with lots of solar and not so many people).

On fracking: The lone remaining fracking bill, Senator Pavely's SB 4, continues to move through the Capitol and will be heard next by Assembly Appropriations in August. If the bill passes, it will change state law to require monitoring, regulation, and tracking of every oil or gas well using the "hydraulic fracturing" technique. And speaking of natural gas (though it's not the main issue here in California, where we frack for shale oil), check out this new Center for American Progress report arguing that if natural gas is a bridge, we better make sure it goes somewhere -- and that we start ramping down its use by 2030.

I'm out of space and time so will stop here. But if you want even more news on energy and climate, with fantastic commentary from my colleague Pat McVeigh, check out her new blog, Pat's Picks.

Read more from Kate Gordon.