Hippocrates is the namesake of the Hippocratic Oath, a commitment made by physicians often summarized as “do no harm.” It has nothing to do with the word “hypocrite,” which describes people who apply different standards to themselves than they expect of others.  

Hypocrisy abounds among politicians. And, unfortunately, politicians are not required to take the Hippocratic Oath. Consequently, they often cause harm with remedies worse than the problems they purport to treat. And all too often, politicians treat themselves differently than they treat others.

On May 19, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will consider the illness of climate change and treatment for it. Specifically, the supervisors will consider how to deal with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the county.

Many believe CO2 causes climate change. As a state, California recognized a nexus between CO2 and global warming with passage of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32.

Since passage of AB 32, California CO2 emissions have fallen steadily. At present, AB 32 requires a 15.3 percent reduction in CO2 emissions throughout the state.

The required reduction percentage will soon increase because Gov. Jerry Brown recently set a 2030 reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels. A 40 percent reduction will take us halfway to the 2050 target of 80 percent below 1990 levels. When it comes to reducing CO2, AB 32 made California the world leader it is.

Our county acknowledged this leadership in its Energy and Climate Action Plan, generically called ECAP. The plan clearly states its goal is to reduce emissions consistent with AB 32. Just like the state law, the county’s plan focused on reducing emissions by 15 percent.

The plan also contemplates periodic adjustments to CO2 reduction targets in coming years to ensure ultimate reduction goals are achieved — again, just like AB 32.

Recently, the the county Air Pollution Control District (APCD) board voted for an AB 32-consistent policy.

Based upon 2013 data (the most current year for which full data is available), seven CO2 emitters in the county are already subject to AB 32. These seven account for 73 percent of the total CO2 emissions. If AB 32 already regulates a project, APCD does not recommend additional regulation.  

Furthermore, the APCD recommended a 15 percent reduction in emissions from certain other sources in the county not currently subject to the new state law. 

In short, after many months of work, the board of the APCD — the only agency in our county that can claim to have any sort of bona fide air expertise — approved a policy entirely consistent with both AB 32 and ECAP.

If the APCD recommendation is adopted, approximately 82 percent of CO2 emissions in the county will be regulated without the need for new regulations. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of future emissions will also be regulated.

However, it will not be easy for our supervisors to do the right thing and follow our local air experts’ recommendation. First, they will have to say no to those who want more regulation, apparently for regulation’s sake.

Interestingly, even those who are calling for more regulation acknowledge it will provide no meaningful benefit in terms of CO2 reduction, and they also acknowledge it will impose additional costs on many — including hospitals, hotels, schools, hotels and other important employers in the county.

If the supervisors do what the extremists want, harm will be done to Santa Barbara County, thus confirming there is no political equivalent to the Hippocratic Oath.

On the other hand, if the supervisors follow the air experts’ recommendation, they will have a policy consistent with ECAP, which is itself, consistent with AB 32. Where consistency exists, hypocrisy does not.

May the spirit of Hippocrates prevail on May 19. If it does, hypocrisy will be vanquished. For that day at least.

— Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.