Ground lost in 2012 vs 2011 in California GHG-emissions-reduction fight

On Feb. 24, 2013 in “Global greenhouse gas emissions reduction a work in progress,” I remarked: “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.”

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB), meanwhile, released its latest greenhouse gas emissions inventory report for California: “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012” in May 2014. In the effort to lower in the atmosphere overall levels of greenhouse gas emissions, on this front, what, if any, progress has been made and, in its effort to appreciably reduce its GHG, is California winning the war?

Here is what I learned: “In 2012, total GHG and per capita emissions increased by 1.7% from 2011 emissions. This increase was driven largely by the increased reliance on natural gas-generation sources of in-state electricity due to the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) as well as dry hydrological conditions in 2012 (drought) causing a drop in the in-state hydropower generation. Total statewide greenhouse gas emissions have decreased from 466 million [metric] tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2000 to 459 MMTCO2e in 2012, a decrease of 1.6 percent,” as reported by the ARB. Even more encouragingly, Golden State GHG dipped below 2000’s mark, to 458.4 MMTCO2e in 2009, the first time this had happened since 2000, this after reaching a high of 492.9 MMTCO2e in 2004.1

Not surprisingly, since 2000, both California and the U.S. in this regard have trended negatively. Encouraging, such news is.

To give some perspective, the biggest GHG improvement between 2000 and 2012 occurred between years 2008 and 2009, which saw emissions drop from 487.1 MMTCO2e to 458.4 MMTCO2e, or a decrease of nearly six percent. Between those same two years, this mirrored the national trend.2 The then recessionary economy was likely responsible for the improvement.

But there is more going on in California in this regard than may meet the eye.

The ARB in its Dec. 2011 report: “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory: 2000-2009” stated, “The California Legislature and Governor took significant steps to address the concerns raised about climate change with Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32, 2006), with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) as the lead implementation agency. In addition, Executive Order S-3-05 requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (EO, 2005).”3

Moreover, in the Golden State, with AB 32’s passage along with the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (Calif. Senate Bill 375) enactment in 2008, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in 18 state regions are tasked with meeting agreed-upon GHG-emissions-reduction targets for years 2020 and 2035. For example, throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley, those reduction targets are five percent and 10 percent, respectively. In other regions of the state, the GHG-reduction targets are more ambitious.

So you know, in being broken down into its constituent parts, by far carbon dioxide (CO2) represents the single biggest source and accounts for 86.5 percent of GHG in state. Other GHGs including chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), methane (CH4), nitrous oxides (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFC) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) contribute lesser quantities to the total amount. CFC, HFC and PFC, incidentally, are classified in a broader group known as “Other halogenated gases.”4


  1. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, pp. 6, 7 & 9
  2. Ibid, p. 11
  3. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory: 2000-2009,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Dec. 2011, p. 5
  4. “California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory: 2000-2012,” California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, May 2014, pp. 2 & 7

– Alan Kandel

1 thought on “Ground lost in 2012 vs 2011 in California GHG-emissions-reduction fight”

  1. “But there is more going on in California in this regard than may meet the eye…”

    Just because California has laws in place to reduce GHG emissions does not excuse the huge setback to our GHG emission reduction goals that the (completely unnecessary and politically induced) retirement of San Onofre. Our emissions will be 9 million metric tons higher than necessary as a result of its absence. What is even more appalling is that so-called “environmental activists” are pushing to shut down Diablo Canyon to satisfy their irrational fears about a technology they don’t understand.

    California is shooting its climate goals in the foot by its hostility to nuclear power. The pervasive anti-nuclear ideology (and its consequences) should be confronted and condemned, not obfuscated and overlooked.

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