California plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
April 4, 2006
California plans to introduce legislation that will impose binding limiting on future greenhouse gas emissions. The state aims to cut current levels of emissions 10 percent by 2020, to bring pollution in line with 1990 levels. It would become the first state to implement mandatory controls on greenhouse gasses.
Most scientists believe that increasing levels of greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, are responsible for rising global temperatures. Earlier this year, NASA announced that 2005 was the warmest year on record while researchers reported in the journal Science that concentrations of carbon dioxide–a potent greenhouse gas–are at the highest level in 650,000 years. Warmer temperatures are expected to increase the severity of storms, disrupt precipitation patterns, produce higher sea levels, and affect global biodiversity.
“It’s time for California to take a leadership role in the challenge that is global warming,” Fabian Nunez, the Democrat who leads the Assembly, told reporters in his capitol office. “This is not just about the future, it’s about the impacts that global warming is already having.”
California would become the first state to require industry to reduce emissions, though a block of nine northeastern states–Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware–has proposed a emissions capping and trading program. California’s plan may involve a similar emissions trading market along with stricter controls on car pollution, a surcharge on gasoline to help pay for research into clean fuels, an increased adoption of renewable.
Overall, the California bill calls for the reduction of emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020–a 25 percent reduction over forecast levels and 10 percent below the current 500 million metric tons a year. California is the world’s 12th-largest source of greenhouse gasses–41 percent of which come from cars.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican up re-election this year, has pushed emissions cuts despite his party’s traditional reluctance on the issue.
“Global warming and the pollution from fossil fuels are threats here in California and around the world,” said Schwarzenegger in a statement. “I’m very proud of California’s leadership in the movement to reduce greenhouse gases. We are an environmental partner not only to our nation, but to nations around the world.”
Schwarzenegger’s Environmental Protection Agency issued a report that said implementing the governor’s emissions goals may cost $7.9 billion in investment through 2020, but produce $9 billion in savings for consumers. The report echoes a 2005 study which found that greenhouse gas pollution can be substantially reduced at a profit rather than a cost. The study, commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, concluded that energy efficiency has helped the California economy grow an extra 3 percent – a $31 billion gain – compared to business as usual. Further, the researchers said that each Californian typically saved about $1,000 per year between 1975 and 1995 just through efficiency standards for buildings and appliances.
In January, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a $2.9 billion program to make the state one of the world’s largest producers of solar power. The plan would add 3,000 megawatts of solar energy over 11 years through the installation of 1 million rooftop solar energy systems on homes, businesses, farms, schools and public buildings. The amount of electricity generated would be equivalent to about six new power stations. Solar power could save California utility customers an estimated $9 billion from a reduced need to build new power plants and purchase electricity supplies at peak demand.
Critics of the plan say that emissions limitations could adversely affect the economy, but backers of the bill say that global warming threatens state industries including as agriculture, tourism and timber production.
Energy efficiency helped California grow an extra $31 billion finds study
environmental officials for the state of California and the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo have found significant evidence that greenhouse gas pollution can be substantially reduced at a profit rather than a cost.
Estimated Carbon Dioxide Emissions for California, 1990-1999. Courtesy of EIA/DOE
California adopts massive solar energy project
The California Public Utilities Commission approved a $2.9 billion program to make the state one of the world’s largest producers of solar power. The plan would add 3,000 megawatts of solar energy over 11 years through the installation of 1 million rooftop solar energy systems on homes, businesses, farms, schools and public buildings. The amount of electricity generated would be equivalent to about six new power stations. Solar power could save California utility customers an estimated $9 billion from a reduced need to build new power plants and purchase electricity supplies at peak demand.
Carbon dioxide level highest in 650,000 years
Carbon dioxide levels are now 27 percent higher than at any point in the last 650,000 years, according to research into Antarctic ice cores published on Thursday in Science. Analysis of carbon dioxide in the ancient Antarctic ice showed that at no point in the past 650,000 years did levels approach today’s carbon dioxide concentrations of around 380 parts per million (ppm). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could reach 450-550 ppm by 2050, possibly resulting in higher temperatures and rising sea levels. There is fear that climate change could create a class of environmental refugees displaced from their homes by rising oceans, increasingly catastrophic weather, and expanding deserts.
2005 was the warmest year on record
A new study by NASA indicates that 2005 was the warmest year in at least a century, surpassing 1998. According to their data, the five warmest years over the last century have occurred since 1997: 2005, then 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004. NASA also announced that over the past 30 years, the Earth has warmed by 0.6 degrees C or 1.08 degrees F, and 0.8 degrees C or 1.44 degrees F over the past 100 years. The NASA study follows two studies from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released last year that suggested 1998 was the warmest year. According to the NASA researchers, the primary difference among the conclusions is the inclusion of data from the Arctic in the NASA analysis. 2005 appears to have been unusually warm in the Arctic, resulting in significant loss in sea ice.