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California’s climate policies rooted in Fantasyland, not Tomorrowland
rail coastal
Crews work to keep one of the less problematic sections of railroad track the Pacific Surfliner runs on from tumbling into the Pacific Ocean.

If climate change drives California political decisions, then railroads is its Rorschach inkblot test.

First there is the old Disneyland equivalent of the “A” ticket ride.

It’s the execution of what former Gov. Jerry Brown referred to as his legacy —  California High Speed Rail project.

It is indeed a high speed project based on how it is going through money at a rate that is even astounding for Sacramento.

But the fact the project is now expected to cost $100 billion or three times its original estimate and likely will be 30 years overdue on a high speed train making it all the way from LA to San Francisco isn’t the question here.

Nor is the fact ridership projections call for 8.6 million riders in 2032 when the only segment that will be high speed expected to be in place will be 171 miles between Bakersfield and Merced.

As things stand, it will be closer to the “15 cars and 15 restless riders” that Arlo Guthrie sang about on the last run of the City of New Orleans than 8.6 million.

Now let’s look at the real world version of Disneyland’s Thunder Mountain Railroad Ride — the 351-mile coast rail line from San Luis Obispo to San Diego that carries Amtrak’s popular Pacific Surfliner.

Landslides have shut down passenger and freight train traffic at least a dozen times since 2018.

Remedial solutions are done to keep reopening the route.

Long-term solitons  — long tunnels and moving tracks farther inland — will likely result in a second runaway train project burning through  dozens of billions of dollars with little or nothing to show for it.

The two railroad lines share a common legacy that is beyond the steel rail.

It’s called climate change, manmade or otherwise.

High speed rail is a somewhat abstract solution to slowing down climate change.

The coastline railroad is clearly caught up in real world consequences of climate change.

Yes, crumbling cliffs and the ocean altering and reclaiming coastlines has been happening before distant cousins of California Legislators grasped the remedial concepts of a wheel.

And, yes, climate change has been reshaping California and the rest of the earth way before mankind started adding its measly two cents to the equation.

But to grasp the true insanity of what’s going on let’s accept various climate change models state bureaucrats and elected leaders as well as those manning the ramparts have embraced.

If it is inevitable and climate forces will raise the sea level at least 6.6 feet by 2100 as California officially projects, then why continue the madness of pumping money into a doomed rail line?

And why isn’t the high speed rail project being built with the same urgency the segment  of the Bay Bridge damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was replaced?

It is implied, after all, that every day even one fossil-fueled automobile making its way between. San Francisco and LA as well as parts in between drives another nail into the proverbial climate coffin.

How can Sacramento’s politicians with a straight face repeatedly say climate change dictates drastic measures while at the same time shoveling money non-stop into a coastal rail route that is doomed under a scenario they embrace?

And given the warp speed that money is being spent on the LA-SF high speed rail and the diminishing ridership projections that every think tank and consultant sees that are oblivious to those pulling down fat paychecks from keeping the project alive, why hasn’t the plug been pulled?

The answer can be found in the inkblots.

The Greta Thunberg groupies see the high speed train saving us from climate change.

At the other extreme, those that think every dime spent by government is a colossal waste of money see a boondoggle that is basically propping up construction jobs.

And when it comes to the tracks the Pacific Surfliner rumbles down, the greenie groupies see a mass transit project and not an endeavor doomed under the very climate change theories and scenarios that drive them to mandate the death of all fossil fuel use.

California, as the pundits reminded the world after the recent 4.2 Richter scale quake in New Jersey, is a very active piece of the continent compared to the East Coast that has basically lethargic geology.

It is why we can literally have hundreds of earthquakes a week, most of which are too small to be detected without sensors as well as land/rock slides on a routine basis from Big Sur to Yosemite Valley.

Do not misunderstand.

This is not to argue all climate change initiatives whether they are capping on gas-powered vehicles, transforming huge swaths of the desert into shade structures, or simply being better stewards of our resources and air are close to be ineffective and/or worthless.

What is needed is consistency as well as not pursuing solutions that address concerns as if everything can be fixed as if they were silos and not interconnected.

Those in a position to determine how to best use what limited means government has and its bully pulpit backed up with the cracking whip of regulations with punishment that stings enough to herd the masses into submission/compliance, need to get their act together.

Channeling Sybil whenever one deciphers the inkblots of climate change is counterproductive to devising and implanting a holistic strategy instead of one cobbled together with sound bites.

It is too easy — and incorrect — to blame the lack of a coherent climate strategy on naysayers.

That gambit is being exposed for what it is by the two rail projects.

One is clearly doomed by the unstoppable forces of nature yet we still pour money into it.

The other is clearly moving so slow that it risks being an ineffective tool to impact climate change any way close to a meaningful manner while it consumes inordinate amounts of money that could be used for  more effective initiatives to prepare California for a changing future.

California needs leadership that is rooted in Tomorrowland and not Fantasyland when it comes to resources and how they are spent to adapt the Golden State to the ever changing forces of nature.

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at