Greenhouse gases overall dip in California; and then there’s transportation

Fortunately, the news is mostly good: Greenhouse gas emissions in California fell. Transportation is one trouble spot, however – the main one.

Speaking directly to this, on Aug. 12, 2019, the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) released its California Greenhouse Gas Emissions for 2000 to 2017: Trends of Emissions and Other Indicators report.

In the “Governor Newsom announces climate pollution continues to drop below 2020 target while state’s economy grows” Aug. 12, 2019 ARB news release to that effect, the ARB stated: “Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in California continued to fall ahead of schedule in 2017 as the state’s economy grew ahead of the national average, according to the California Air Resources Board’s latest state inventory of climate-changing emissions.

“The data also shows that for the first time since California started to track GHG emissions, the state power grid used more energy from zero-GHG sources like solar and wind power than from electrical generation powered by fossil fuels. In addition, the data demonstrates that emissions from the transportation sector did not rise as fast as in previous years.”

There was improvement in per-capita GHGs too. It was 10.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent units per person in 2017, a drop of 2 percent from 2016, according to release information.

Transportation, meanwhile, sputtered, meaning emissions rose. Though a gain of just 0.7 percent from the year prior, it is a rise nonetheless. The bulk of the emissions contribution in this sector (37 percent of GHG in California in this case) came from passenger vehicles, according to the ARB. In this area, the state could stand to do – and benefit from doing – better.

Super pollutant emissions rose as well. These include methane and refrigerants used in automobile, commercial and residential air conditioners.

Here are some of the important categories and corresponding numbers from the report to be aware of.

For 2017:

Emissions of GHGs: 424.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent units or MMTCO2e. Per person or per capita GHGs: 10.7 metric tons CO2e. In 2012 dollars, gross domestic product (GDP): $2.6 trillion. Per GDP GHG emissions: 164 metric tons CO2e per one million dollars. State population: 39.6 million people.The different GHG emissions and their percentage contributions in descending order are as follows:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): 83%
  • Methane (CH4): 9%
  • High GWP Gases: 5%
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O): 3%

As for the sector emissions breakdown, in descending order, these are:

  • Transportation: 40.1% (excludes oil production and petroleum refining GHGs)
  • Industrial: 21.1%
  • Electricity: 14.7%
  • Residential and commercial: 9.7%
  • Agriculture: 7.6%
  • High Global Warming Potential Gases (High GWP): 4.7%
  • Waste: 2.1%

As to electricity generation, “In 2017, those emissions fell nine percent from 2016, the largest decline of any economic sector,” emphasized the ARB in the release. “A large increase in zero-emission energy resources drove the reduction. Those clean resources powered 52 percent of all California’s electricity consumed in 2017.”

This was followed with similar report highlights for both industry and agriculture.

To learn more, see the ARB’s “California Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory – 2019 Editions” page here.

For more on the matter, see: “California poised to hit 2020 carbon emissions target. Will other places do as California is doing?” here, “California’s improved economy comes as greenhouse gases fall” here and “California transport-sector emissions climb despite GHG’s overall decline” here.

Image above: California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board

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