Global greenhouse gas emissions reduction a work in progress

Today’s thread: Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction.

Being that on the world stage California contributes a sizable chunk of GHG emissions, I would like to think the state is among an amalgamation of front-lines leaders making progress on the fight against global greenhouse gas emissions. I believe California is and that is good.

To understand the magnitude of the Golden State GHG emissions problem, back in 2006 Frank D. Russo at the California Progress Report wrote: “At a crowded press conference flanked by environmental leaders from a number of state and national organizations, Speaker of the California Assembly, Fabian Nunez announced that an agreement finally is at hand with the Governor. The bill, AB 32, By Nunez and Assemblymember Fran Pavley, is in print and the Governor has indicated he will sign it.” The Governor did just that and that same year, in fact.

A few paragraphs later, Russo commented that, “The presence of the environmental groups is a good marker to me that the bill is a good one, puts California which is the twelfth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world (larger than most countries) in the role of a model for other states and the nation, and is solid.”

To try to put what being the world’s 12th largest greenhouse gas emitter means in more meaningful terms, remember the United Nations Climate Change Conference (known more familiarly as the Copenhagen Summit) held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009? Well, the conference convened representative leaders from 192 nations. At any rate, California, if thought of as an independent nation, its greenhouse gas emissions would surpass the GHG outputs of approximately 93 percent, or 179 out of those 192 countries. In other words, California would rank as nation number 12 behind the number one world GHG producer.

To paint a more detailed picture of just what’s being talked about here, in the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board’s “California Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory: 2000-2009” (Dec. 2011) document, in Table 3: Recent Trends in California Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks by Scoping Plan Categories, presented are subgroups: Agriculture, Commercial and Residential, Electric Power (In-state), Electric Power (Imports), Forestry, Industrial, Transportation, Recycling and Waste, and High GWP. So, how is California doing? The Golden State in 2009 emitted a net 453.0 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions (based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2nd Assessment Report. This compares with a California high net CO2 emissions equivalent total of 484.9 million metric tons in 2007 and is indicative of such emissions being in decline overall.

From the same document, when looking at individual category numbers for carbon dioxide equivalent emissions for years 2007 through 2009, On Road transportation was one that saw improvement. This, though, could be reflective of the effect The Great Recession was having on the economy and transportation.

Meanwhile, in Table 2: Recent Trends in California Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks by Inventory Economic Sectors of the grand total 456.8 million metric tons CO2 equivalent emissions gross in 2009, the per-subgroup-category breakdown in million metric tons and as percentages in parentheses () is as follows:

  • Transportation – 172.9 (37.9%)
  • Industrial – 89.3 (19.5%)
  • Electricity Generation (in-state) – 56.2 (12.3%)
  • Electricity Generation (imports) – 48.4 (10.6%)
  • Agriculture – 32.1 (7%)
  • Residential – 28.6 (6.3%)
  • Unspecified – 14.7 (3.2%)
  • Commercial – 14.3 (3.1%)
  • Forestry – 0.2 (0.04%)

To get its greenhouse gas emissions numbers house in order, California obviously has its work cut out. But being that there are other locales both big and small likewise talking the talk and walking the walk, getting emissions under control, it is safe to say, is a work in progress.

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