The initiative, which is backed by California’s flagship universities, is in the early stages of development. If it succeeds, it will represent one of the largest US investments in climate research in years. The nascent ‘California Climate Science and Solutions Institute’ would fund basic- and applied-research projects designed to help the state to grapple with the hard realities of global warming.

The project could be funded by revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade programme to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but its political prospects are unclear. Advocates say they have received a warm reception from California Governor Jerry Brown, but a spokesperson for Brown would say only that “discussions are ongoing”. The proposal must also clear the state legislature….

But the California initiative still faces significant challenges. Severin Borenstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, warns that academics will face plenty of competition for a limited pool of cap-and-trade revenue…..Nonetheless, Borenstein favours the climate initiative, because he sees global warming as an issue on which California can have a truly global impact.

“The main way California can contribute to dealing with climate change is through innovation,” he says. “We can invent and test the technologies and processes that will allow the rest of the world to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.