Can a nation, or indeed the world, bring its greenhouse gas emissions down to zero? An analysis of this goal will be issued on October 8, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishes its Special Report on the 1.5ºC target.
Governments commissioned this report at the Paris Summit in 2015. The rationale was that until that point, scientific and technical analysis based on the 1.5ºC target was sparse; the agreed political target had always been 2ºC, and so this was where academics had focussed their attention. Since then, scientists, economists and the technical experts who map possible emissions reduction pathways for various industries have been getting to work – and the IPCC report will be the distillation of their work.
California isn't waiting to take action on this. In response to the state's Fourth Climate Change Assessment, Governor Brown was the principal organizer and reluctant star of the Global Climate Action Summit in September 13-15, a high-octane gathering of lawmakers, executives and scientists working to beat back global warming. But even as he sought to rally other politicians to the cause, Governor Brown’s conference underscored the limits of what politicians can do to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change — even the politician who leads California, the wealthiest state in the country and the world’s fifth-largest economy.
Can California realistically do it? Nearly all of the remaining 44 percent of the state's electricity is currently generated by burning natural gas, and virtually none comes from coal. Going completely zero-carbon would require phasing out the state's natural gas power plants. The new law actually sets multiple targets rather than just one. It commits California to draw half its electricity from renewable sources by 2026, a share that would rise to 60 percent by 2030.
To take the next step, rather than mandating that all power be renewably sourced, state lawmakers established a 100 percent "zero-carbon" goal. They did not define this term, but it is understood as including wind and solar power, big hydropower plants, and other sources of electricity that do not generate carbon dioxide.
The timeline for these significant actions in California originate with the August release of its Fourth Climate Change Assessment document, which outlined the very extreme impacts that arise from carbon emissions even below the most-desired outcome of the agreed-to 1.5ºC temperature increase in the Paris Agreement of December 2015.
Sept. 14, 2018: With the Global Climate Action Summit underway in San Francisco, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced its commitment to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60 percent or more below 1990 levels.
Sept. 12, 2018: Governor Brown signed a package of climate-related bills. Among them were three bills supporting building decarbonization. AB 3232 directs the California Energy Commission to assess the potential for California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings by 40 percent by 2030; SB 1477 will establish an incentive program for low-carbon space and water heating equipment; and AB 2195 directs the California Air Resources Board to track GHG emissions from natural gas leakage and venting during the production, processing and transporting of natural gas imported into California.
Sept. 12, 2018: LA Times op-ed from Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg. They are two of the six co-chairs of the Global Climate Action Summit. They are also part of the America's Pledge coalition.
Sept. 10 2018: Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that requires California to generate 100 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2045.
Contrary to the conservative mythology that clean energy slows economic growth, the state is already reduced its greenhouse emissions by 13 percent, even as the economy has grown by 26 percent. Clean energy also creates more jobs than fossil fuels and more people already work solar than coal, gas, and oil extraction combined.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug.28, 2018.
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California is moving into the forefront of environmental action and climate change issues. The legislature just passed a truly transformative bill, SB100. By setting the marker at 100% clean energy by 2045, California stands to cultivate and capture a huge slice of the domestic renewable energy market and again lead in innovation.
Governor Brown also signed an executive order (B-55-18) to make California carbon neutral by 2045. Full carbon neutrality is now on the table for the world’s fifth largest economy.
Sept. 4, 2018: Los Angeles County
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, on Tuesday Sept. 4, 2018, joined other counties, states and cities in support of the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.
Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis recommended registering the county with the We Are Still In coalition, saying impacts of human-driven climate change will include less frequent but more intense rainstorms, more frequent and longer droughts, increased wildland fires and urban forest die- offs, more vector-borne disease, rising seas, lower air quality and longer and hotter heat waves.
August 2018: The California Natural Resources Agency just released its fourth Climate Change Assessment, a call to action on rising global temperatures — the state’s first in six years. Takeaways from California’s New Climate Assessment: water is a critical issue.
Update 9/21/18: Southern California just saw its longest streak of bad air in decades
Update 11/20/18: The public should not have to pay to protect or rebuild mansions on sites that will inevitably burn every 20 or 25 years.