California’s CO2 reduction claim bogus, ignores states forest management and wildfire emissions debacle

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.

clip_image014The 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.     

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John H Adams
May 17, 2019 10:35 am

just more greenwashing!

May 17, 2019 10:43 am

Perhaps the state of California needs to include the carbon content of the consumer and commercial items it imports or better yet the carbon content of all the electronic items it’s tech sector develops locally but mass produces in China. I suspect this leakage would swamp even the forest fire emissions

May 17, 2019 10:45 am

California’s Squaw Valley ski resort just received 18 inches of fresh snow in 48 hours, and the Tahoe Basin snowpack today holds 627% of normal for the date. “The End Of Snow!”

May 17, 2019 10:50 am

More great work, Larry.

Your information is valuable to all your allies.


May 17, 2019 11:03 am

Similar to the EU not counting emissions from burning wood pellets for energy in their calculations.

Glenn Vinson
May 17, 2019 11:13 am

It has never been about the climate. It has always been about the agenda…attack private property rights. If you don’t have private property rights, you don’t have capitalism.

People who favor Big Gov’t will tend to vote for tax increases because that is where their money comes from…not because they love tax increases.

Joel O'Bryan
May 17, 2019 11:27 am

“Thus the world’s developing nations future increased CO2 emissions render any CO2 emission reductions from California or the U.S. totally irrelevant.”

In the deliberation of and deciding a rational policy basis for the US and Europe on fossil fuels, that statement above is all one really needs to know about the situation. Only one word is needed to describe all of this “solving climate change by reducing CO2 emissions” in western-style developed countries: Futile
Having no useful result; ineffectual.
Frivolous; merely loquacious.
Of no effect; answering no valuable purpose; useless; ineffective; trifling: as, futile

California’s laws in reality are meant to do one thing. That is put money into renewable energy resources industries that push up the value of appropriately invested Green Hedge Funds, “green” equity funds, and thus “green” investors pay-outs, even to the detriment of the overall economy.

Yes, it is about restructuring the very nature of our energy economy, but with a clear intent to produce economic winners, even if it means substantial increases in costs to consumers and lower reliability and value of the energy delivered. These are “green” investments of which the likes of Tom Steyer and his investment vehicles are heavily invested.
The Democrats are all about using the power of the state to create winners and losers. The tort bar (the predatort lobby) has long understood this. That why they have always strongly back Democrats, the party that will write laws that make civil litigation and resulting big class-action payouts possible.
And if you know who the winner is going to be ahead o time, since you write the rules and rig the game, you know where to invest, and then who has to comes to you for political favors.
It is why exists and why it is a nexus between Democrats and big Green investors. This very much includes public union investment funds like CalSTRS and CalPERS. In every actuarial analysis, these public union funds are currently massively underfunded to future obligations. One solution they are grasping for is if they can get the Democrats the align with to rig the investment game and align their funds’ investment strategies with these Big Green schemes for big payouts down the road. Juicing-up their ROI on the backs of the energy consumers and the little guy who can least afford $6/gal gas and $500/month electric bills. But it’s being done with sleight of hand and with climate change snake oil solutions being sold as “Saving the Planet.”
Who can argue against “saving the Planet”? (rhetorical, with George Carlin excepted)

Big Green with its messaging machinations and propaganda campaigns are in reality not a big scheme to “Save the Planet”. Far from it as Bjorn Lomborg’s and many others analyses clearly demonstrate.
They are simply schemes to put big “green-backs” into favored investors, investors aligned with Democrats. Pay to play. “You scratch my back, I scratch yours,” and “screw whoever get left out” attitudes. We see the same attitude with public teachers unions. The leaders of the big public teachers unions have clearly made their feelings known, that to them, public schools exist first and foremost as a jobs program for teachers,and any educational benefit or outcome for the children is secondary. This is the same attitude they have towards all things “Green.” It’s about payout, and any benefit to climate that may accrue is a secondary benefit or outcome.

But they are energy schemes which would, if followed, destroy the very economic competitiveness of the US and the West. And from economic power flows military strength. And thus China and Russia look on with quiet, nodding approval at these Green Schemes that will destroy the West and its military power, while achieving nothing re: climate.


Sal Minella
May 17, 2019 11:40 am

How much CO2 was emitted in 1990 and how much will be emitted next year? How is this measured or is it just a WAG calculation?

May 17, 2019 11:47 am

Fires don’t count as new CO2, as the wood was made from CO2 in the air.

Reply to  trafamadore
May 17, 2019 12:21 pm

and coal comes from antique pix y dust??

Reply to  trafamadore
May 17, 2019 12:35 pm

So was coal.

Reply to  shrnfr
May 17, 2019 2:07 pm

Not in this millennium. Most coal is from the Carboniferous Period, about 300 million years ago.

Reply to  trafamadore
May 17, 2019 1:06 pm

So was coal, oil and natural gas …..

By ecosystems flourishing under the very conditions we are supposed to be fearing.

Reply to  trafamadore
May 17, 2019 3:26 pm

True traf, but the CO2 was added in a given year. To accurately account for its renewability, it would have to be amortized over the life of the new tree growth.

john harmsworth
May 17, 2019 11:50 am

Why don’t we just ask those nice Chinese folks to accept poverty and stop increasing emissions? Problem which doesn’t seem to exist-solved.

May 17, 2019 12:06 pm

The carbon emissions growth graph is a lot more interesting when put in context….

The IPCC was formed in 1988….and declared China, etc developing and gets paid to increase their emissions

…and they all did

Wiliam Haas
May 17, 2019 12:16 pm

CO2 emission are trivial when you consider that California’s greenhouse gas emissions are dominated by H2O.

May 17, 2019 12:17 pm

WINTER STORM WARNING !! For the central Sierra.
Uh … it’s May 17! It’s not been winter for a LONG time …

Allllll that carbon spewed into the atmosphere hasn’t caused a never ending drought as Jerry Brown screamed. Allllll that carbon spewed into the atmosphere has caused EXTREME weather … eh, Jerry? Just keep changing your story, err “science”. Yep. Your SUV caused the WORST and most PERMANENT DROUGHT IN THE HISTORY OF CA!!! oops … no, it caused EXTREME!! Weather … EXTREME!! I tell you !!! *spittle* *cough* *gag* *drool*

michael hart
May 17, 2019 12:23 pm

On a quick scan of the article, I’m not sure what to say.

While I’m not pleased about all of the lies that have been told in order to enact many ridiculous laws and regulations in California, should I be happy or sad that they now choose to lie when claiming to have met some of those obligations?

May 17, 2019 12:39 pm

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…”

Why do we continue to play the game of the Global Stifling Crowd? It is absolutely pointless to “calculate” an alleged contribution to Global Warming, because even our short global temperature record has shown the temperature rises, the temperature drops, the temperature moves sideways, all while CO₂ levels have continued to climb at a virtually constant rate, proving there is NO correlation between atmospheric CO₂ levels and global average temperature! The correct response should be, it doesn’t matter and we are not wasting the time, money or effort to calculate and report the U. S. contribution any longer!

There, I probably just earned the title of Skeptic Troll of The Week. And I’m proud of it. With apologies to Olivia Newton John, Let’s Get Practical!

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
May 17, 2019 1:17 pm

These arguments on CO2 emissions are made with the stipulating assumptions that the IPCC’s climate models are largely correct. It is from *that* stipulation then that smart people like Bjorn Lomborg can show quite clearly that emissions reductions and reduction targets (INDCs) by the US and the EU, reductions relative to the developing world’s growth of emissions, are both futile and counter-productive. It is an economic argument that makes moot the attempts by the Left to apply pejorative labels like “denier” or “science denier” to silence debate on “climate action.”

When the climate scam started in earnest in 1988, and then through the early 2000’s (China joined the WTO in 2001 and then economically exploded in energy consumption after that), no one foresaw the rise of China and the fossil fuel emissions from the developing world. Combine that “China surprise” with the expected “peak oil” predictions for early 2000’s, and they thought they had this Climate Hustle in the bag by 2010-2015.

Arguing the underlying assumptions on CO2 and the climate sensitivity is of course then another matter altogether. One that goes directly to what science tells us of climate and GHG feedbacks. Going there usually gets one labeled a “denier”, even though its objectively clear the science is not settled.

J Mac
May 17, 2019 1:19 pm

I may have missed this but did California include all of the CO2 produced by importing electricity generated in other states?

Larry Hamlin
Reply to  J Mac
May 17, 2019 7:09 pm

Ca. does identify what portion of their electricity import (MwHrs) is from renewables if it can be identified from a specific source.
As far as I can determine Ca. does not include emissions from these electricity import sources as a part of its emissions inventory.

Patrick MJD
May 17, 2019 1:25 pm

Assumption, estimates and models helped CA achieve the emissions reductions? Yeah, I bet they did.

Robert of Texas
May 17, 2019 1:31 pm

You found a perfect example (although just a state, not a country) of how every country that signed the Paris agreement is going to report their great success while they doctor their real numbers. To actually implement net zero carbon (meaning CO2) emission would doom any advanced economy at this time. The only countries getting away with it are small, sitting on extraordinary resource sites, or just plain making it up.

California is an example of a government that is just making it up.

I am surprised that Valenzuela has not pointed out how much carbon reduction they have driven by their enlightened greenhouse gas reduction policies. You stop feeding your people, they go away or die, your emissions are reduced. California will be right there in 10 or 20 years – right after they go bankrupt and cannot feed all the state-dependent people they have created or invited. First the taxes have to go up, then California starts free medical and food gifting to illegals, then they need more taxes because more illegals come, then smart businesses move out taking hard working people still making money with them. They can make this all happen faster by giving illegals a right to vote in state elections.

Willem Post
May 17, 2019 2:34 pm

A great article with all the right numbers to highlight the utter nuttiness of California and its RE mania, which has completely fogged up the minds of the people, prevented them not seeing the burned trees for the over-harvested

Obama fed this nonsense with federal subsidies
Trump is demanding $3.5 billion of high speed rail money be returned to the federal government.
That money belongs to the American people.

May 17, 2019 3:36 pm

If they can pretend there’s a problem, why can’t they pretend that they have solved the problem?

Bruce Cobb
May 17, 2019 4:37 pm

Clearly, Calikookistan wants to be the “climate leader” for the rest of the US, which is pretty much of a “climate laggard”, so what they need to do is go a step above and beyond, and become like North Korea. I mean really, they must have a per capita “carbon footprint” one tenth of Cali’s. If NK can do it, why can’t Cali? Come on, Cali, show us Neanderthals the way. You can do it! We’re rootin’ for ya.

May 17, 2019 5:30 pm

“”None so blind as those who do not wish to see “”.

And as the overall USA emissions of CO2 declines, the Green blob in
California will say that their nutty ideas are really working.


James Clarke
May 17, 2019 8:06 pm

I have to believe that if California really did reduce their emissions (not including wildfires) that they had to do it by buying more of their electricity from neighboring states! As this would be a less efficient way of providing customers with electricity, it would ultimately lead to greater emissions over all, just not within the states borders.

Can anyone confirm or deny this? I have no idea how to go about finding out.

Alan Tomalty
May 17, 2019 8:51 pm

As usual everyone has it ass backwards. the atmosphere needs more CO2 NOT less. Thank goodness that China and India are leading the way to a greening of the earth by belching CO2 at full throttle. The plants love it.

May 17, 2019 10:25 pm

Is it ’emissions goal’ or ’emotions goal’?

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