Guest essay by Larry Hamlin
California claimed in 2018 that its greenhouse gas emission reduction target defined in the 2006 AB 32 law ridiculously labeled the “Global Warming Solutions Act” that set an emissions goal for year 2020 (reduce emissions to year 1990 levels) was achieved in year 2016 where greenhouse gas emissions were reported to have declined by 65 million metric tons (of which about 54 million metric tons is CO2) from peak year 2004 levels as noted in the graph below.
A complete listing of the initial 1990 – 2004 CARB (California Air Resources Board) greenhouse gas inventory adopted for the purposes of complying with AB 32 can be found here.
The latest CARB state greenhouse gas emissions inventory data through 2016 is summarized in the table presented below.
The claim for 2016 having met the AB 32 year 2020 emissions target reduction is problematic because the state failed to account for the greenhouse gas emissions from the extensive wildfires experienced since AB 32 was created with that law optimistically assuming that wildfires would be carbon neutral with no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
This significant oversight contained in the AB 32 law which assumed no net emissions for wildlands ecosystems was addressed in an April 15, 2015 study by the University of California at Berkeley that noted wildfire emissions were not carbon neutral.
CARB establishes and updates the states annual greenhouse gas emission target inventory that is used to assess the progress in reducing these emissions as required by an armada of politically contrived climate alarmist propaganda laws and executive orders including AB 32 that required emission levels be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s executive order requiring emission levels be reduced to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, SB 32 requiring emission levels be reduced to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, SB 100 requiring 60% renewable energy electricity by 2030 and 100% renewable energy electricity by 2045 and Gov. Brown’s executive order requiring “zero emissions” net carbon neutrality by 2045 for all California energy use.
With respect to the states greenhouse gas emissions CARB notes that wildfire emissions are not included in its inventory for measuring emission reductions but are dealt with apart from the other tracked emission inventories.
CARB continues to develop and update assessments of wildfire emissions with the results of the latest study of these emissions shown in the graph below. These CO2 emissions level estimates would have a significant impact on increasing the states reported CO2 emission inventory levels.
The CARB study results show net increases in forest wildfire CO2 emissions that are far above being carbon neutral. Furthermore the studies indicate that these results could be off by factors of between 2 and 3.
It is clear from these estimated wildfire CO2 emission outcomes and from the vary large uncertainties associated with these estimates that any claim that California achieved its AB 32 year 2020 reduced emissions target in year 2016 is flawed. Wildfire annual CO2 emissions estimated since 2006 when AB 32 was enacted average about 19 million metrics tons above CARB reported emission inventory levels.
The state government and its political leaders have failed to deal competently with the management of both forest community development and forest management policies with this failure having led to increasing both the risks and occurrences of extreme wildfires throughout the state as presented in a recent WUWT article noted below.
The California Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) report titled Improving California’s Forest and Watershed Management provides ample evidence of the failures of the state to effectively deal with forest management issues over a period of many decades. The diagram below compares two graphs provided in this report that illustrate the very clear connection between the history of number and severity of wildfires in the state relative to the huge reductions that have occurred in timber harvesting that is so critical to maintaining healthy forests. The diagram displays that the very rapid decline in timber harvesting that occurred after 1990 is consistent with the very rapid increase in severe wildfires in California after that timeframe. Also reflected in the rapid increase of severe wildfires since about 1990 are the impacts of the inability to use prescribed burns and forest thinning that creates biomass that can’t be disposed of because of environmental extremist driven laws and regulations as noted in the LAO report.
The state’s government and political leaders have failed to address the realities of flawed regulatory and environmental polices and procedures that the LAO report clearly establishes as having been the major drivers of California’s forest management and wildfire debacle. Instead California leaders have chosen to direct and misallocate the states resources based on a make believe Alice and Wonderland world of scientifically unsupported climate alarmist propaganda.
Additionally and notwithstanding the inadequacy of California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction claims along with its forest management policy incompetence the fact remains that the states emissions reductions are globally irrelevant compared to the increased emissions occurring in the world’s developing nations.
During the period 2006 to 2016 and based on EIA IEO data global CO2 emissions climbed by over 5.3 billion metric tons with the world’s developing nations responsible for this growth while the U.S. reduced its CO2 emissions by nearly 750 million metric tons during that period. California’s deficient CO2 emissions reduction claim would have amounted to a decrease of only 0.054 (about 1% of the global increase during this period) billion metric tons of CO2 but this estimate overly exaggerates the states reductions because it fails to account for the wildfire emissions noted above.
The EIA IEO 2017 report shows future world CO2 emissions totally controlled by the developing nations which climb above 2016 levels by an additional 2.7 billion metric tons by 2030, climb by 6.7 billion metric tons by 2045 and climb by nearly 8 billion metric tons by 2050. Thus the world’s developing nations future increased CO2 emissions render any CO2 emission reductions from California or the U.S. totally irrelevant.
The U.S. has significantly reduced its CO2 emissions levels since its peak year 2007 levels largely through the of increased use of natural gas which has replaced through economic market forces the need for increased coal fuel use.
The U.S. is leading the world in reducing CO2 emissions while lowering energy costs and increasing energy reliability with its CO2 emissions forecast to be between 830 million to more than a billion metric tons below peak 2007 levels through year 2050 as noted in EIA data presented below.
Furthermore the U.S. has significantly decreased the use of coal fuel with higher efficiency lower cost natural gas thus decreasing particulate emissions as a benefit.
The CO2 emissions reductions achieved by the U.S. already lead the world’s nations. The emissions levels of the U.S. are irrelevant to future global CO2 emissions growth that is overwhelmingly dominated by the world’s developing nations. Those climate alarmist activists who constantly clamor about the need for the U.S. to take on more costly and economically burdening actions to reduce CO2 emissions to “fight climate change” (clearly one of the most politically contrived and dumbest climate alarmist claims ever made) are completely out of touch with the reality of global energy needs and future growth.
Climate alarmist government leaders and politicians in California completely ignore the fact that the incredibly costly and massively bureaucratic proposals represented by the states emissions reduction laws and executive orders will do nothing to lower global temperatures as addressed by an analysis by Bjorn Lomborg who evaluated global emissions reduction schemes that are many orders of magnitude larger than California’s proposed schemes.
“This article investigates the temperature reduction impact of major climate policy proposals implemented by 2030, using the standard MAGICC climate model. Even optimistically assuming that promised emission cuts are maintained throughout the century, the impacts are generally small.
The impact of the US Clean Power Plan (USCPP) is a reduction in temperature rise by 0.013°C by 2100. The full US promise for the COP21 climate conference in Paris, its so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) will reduce temperature rise by 0.031°C. The EU 20-20 policy has an impact of 0.026°C, the EU INDC 0.053°C, and China INDC 0.048°C.
All climate policies by the US, China, the EU and the rest of the world, implemented from the early 2000s to 2030 and sustained through the century will likely reduce global temperature rise about 0.17°C in 2100. These impact estimates are robust to different calibrations of climate sensitivity, carbon cycling and different climate scenarios. Current climate policy promises will do little to stabilize the climate and their impact will be undetectable for many decades.”
California did not achieve its AB 32 greenhouse gas year 2020 emissions reduction target in year 2016 as claimed because it failed to account for wildfire emissions that occurred due to the states failure to manage its forests and wildfire prevention activities in a competent manner.
Additionally California’s politically driven climate alarmist laws and executive orders are targeted at emission reductions schemes that are enormously expensive to achieve as well as being bureaucratically onerous for the states citizens and businesses to undertake while producing absolutely no beneficial global climate outcomes whatsoever.