SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Last November a split Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors upheld an appeal filed by a coalition of environmental groups against a county-approved plan to allow more than 100 new oil wells to be drilled in the Orcutt Oil Field due to unacceptably high greenhouse gas emissions.
The company behind the "cyclic steaming" project, Santa Maria Energy, was told by the Board to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the project to 10,000 metric tons per year in order to get final approval.
"That really speaks to the fact that greenhouse gas emissions are not just a local issue", Katie Davis of web-based environmental group 350.org told Central Coast News at the time of the appeal's approval, "this is really the moral question of our time."
"We do not know how much our current problems derive from the buildup of heat-trapping gasses", Governor Jerry Brown said in his State of the State Address in Sacramento last week, "we can take this drought as a stark warning of things to come."
Brown linked California's severe and worsening drought to global climate change from greenhouse gas emissions created by human behavior.
"The United Nations Panel on Climate Change says with 95 percent confidence that human beings are changing our climate", Brown told the State Legislature and a statewide television audience.
"Can you say that right now this drought that we're experiencing is linked to human activity, I think you can say that", says Allan Hancock College instructor Chris Straub, "but I think that when you do say that you have to be very careful with your words."
Straub is guiding his students through the ongoing global debate on climate change and says while there is evidence to support the claim that human behavior is causing changes in global weather patterns, there's also evidence to show climate change could be a naturally-ocurring phenomenon.
"Whether humans have an influence or our influencing the weather on the planet, again I think its very debatable", Straub says, "I think there are many links that can be drawn to human activity and the weather, I think that is undebateable."
A recent survey found a majority of Americans, 63 percent, believe in climate change and 53 percent are worried about the consequences.
The poll was done last November by the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication.