Climate change and politics filled the minds of the top government officials who spoke Tuesday at the 23rd annual Lake Tahoe Summit.
More than 800 people came to Valhalla Tahoe’s Tallac Historic Site to hear speeches from the governors and U.S. senators from California and Nevada, along with two congressmen from California, including Tahoe’s representative Tom McClintock, the only Republican on the stage.
“This is bipartisan,” Nevada Gov. Stephen Sisolak said. “It’s bistate and it’s a singular cause.”
Lake clarity was the theme when the event started in 1997 as the Lake Tahoe Presidential Summit. President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore hosted the event. A long-term governmental and private commitment was pledged. Since then, more than $2 billion has been invested in Lake Tahoe Basin restoration projects.
“Climate change was barely touched upon at the first summit,” Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said. “President Clinton mentioned it twice, but it was not the focus. It was a footnote. … I am saddened the current administration has abandoned crucial global leadership.”
Later, keynote speaker California Gov. Gavin Newsom lamented and laughed, “I miss Richard Nixon. There, I said it.”
Nixon was president during the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which oversees regulation on Lake Tahoe.
The largest applause was for a remark from California Congressman John Garamendi, who blamed the last four or five generations for unprecedented levels of carbon and methane into the atmosphere.
Speaking collectively for the elected officials onstage, he said, “We represent the future generation. Are we willing to do what has to be done? If somebody asks you for their vote, you should ask them, ‘Are you willing to take on this challenge?’ ”
Megan Shumway, who came up from Sacramento for the event, said this issue was understated.
“They didn’t address the real problem,” she said. “This is a climate emergency. It is delusional to think about climate change as being survivable. It’s an extinction event.”
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— Tim Parsons