How Gay Marriage Suggests A Strategy For Climate Change


The iPhone shows how rapidly society can change if it wants to, a California energy commissioner said last week, and gay marriage shows that change can happen in public policy too.

Climate policy could be next, said David Hochschild, the environmental commissioner on the California Energy Commission and an architect of Proposition B, San Francisco’s successful $100 million solar initiative.

« There was gay marriage nowhere until 2004, then we saw that state by state by state by state it got adopted, and now of course it’s in all 50 states. Over a very short period of time. You go back 12, 13 years and you ask how many people think gay marriage is universal and I think most people would assert, it’s not going to happen, » Hochschild said during a Stanford University seminar last week.

« I think there’s actually some lessons for the climate movement in what happened with marriage equality, because they framed the movement in terms of love: Government has no place to get between two people who love each other, » he said. « I actually think climate change is the same thing. It’s about loving the next generation, and I think that is a good way to think about it. »

Hochschild helped design a 2001 ballot initiative for then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to outfit the city with solar panels. His team polled voters and found that of the many potential benefits of clean energy, voters cared most about clean air. The mayor’s« Clean Air, Clean Energy » initiative won with 73 percent of the vote.

He then went to work for Vote Solar, a non-profit that works to topple barriers to solar energy in all states.

The iPhone is his model for change potential: « It’s gone from basically not existing to being ubiquitous in a decade, » he said. And he thinks cigarettes model the country’s addiction to fossil fuels. The smoking rate has fallen from about 50 percent in 1965 to 15 percent today, he said, in spite of early and expensive efforts by the tobacco industry to foster doubt about the science.