Want to be a vegetarian? California climate change mandates will transform economy, attorney says

If you want to do something about climate change, consider becoming a vegetarian.

That’s not the opinion of an environmentalist or of an animal rights activist. It’s advice from a lawyer who represents land developers and conservation companies.

Speaking at the Building Industry Association of Southern California’s annual building show in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach attorney David C. Smith said California’s greenhouse gas reduction mandates are so extensive, they amount to “a complete and comprehensive, fundamental change in our economic life.”

The comments came Wednesday, Nov. 15, during a session on how state environmental regulations affect housing during the two-day builders’ show.

Under a series of executive orders and state laws, California must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels within three years, or the equivalent of 14.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person, Smith said.

Subsequent reductions seek to all but eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions over the following three decades. Californians must cut emissions an additional 60 percent — to 5.9 metric tons per person — from 2020 to 2030. By 2050, they must cut emissions 88 percent to the equivalent of 1.7 metric tons per person.

“The greenhouse gas agenda affects every aspect of our lives,” Smith said.

Noting that beef cattle are a major source of methane, Smith (who is not a vegetarian himself) suggested people eat less meat and possibly become vegetarians.

Ultimately, state leaders still “have no idea how to go through such a complete transformation of California’s economy and still maintain economic vitality,” Smith said.

But builders still face existing hurdles passed long before climate change regulations were adopted, said another industry lawyer.

A lawsuit filed under the 47-year-old California Environmental Quality Act will delay a development a minimum of 1-1/2 to two years, said Kathleen O’Prey Truman, a Los Angeles attorney who represents developers.

And the delays can be significantly longer if the case ends up going through the appeals process. The Newhall Ranch development near Valencia, for example, took 14 years to win approval after its environmental impact statement was challenged in court.

“CEQA can be the death knew of quite a few projects due to the cost,” Truman said.

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