California Leads the Way on Climate Policy

California climate plan will serve as national modelThe California Air Resources Board yesterday unanimously approved the “nation’s most sweeping plan to reduce global warming“.

The plan is a concrete response on how state businesses, government, and citizens will meet the landmark AB32, otherwise known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, signed into law by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. The bill calls for the state, with the world’s eighth largest economy, to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 – or about 30% from current levels.

The plan adopted yesterday by the Air Resources Board provides a means on how to achieve that goal.

(The plan) provides a road map for the rest of the nation to follow,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement, suggesting that the plan will serve as a model for president-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged aggressive action on climate change once he takes office.

The plan calls for 33% of electricity generation from renewable sources, regional transportation emissions targets, and a carbon cap-and-trade system – what many consider the cornerstone of the plan

In all the plan specifies 31 rules, including:

  • Putting 85% of greenhouse gas-emitting industries into a cap-and-trade program
  • Requiring utilities to produce 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources
  • Increase efficiency standards for new and existing buildings
  • Discourage urban sprawl by building housing near transit hubs
  • Lower methane levels in landfills and encourage high levels of recycling and zero trash in landfills

Critics of the plan say the economic costs of the plan are either not well defined or simply too high, especially in the face of the current economy. This assertion is refuted by proponents who see it as an economic boon paving the way for the inevitable green economy, providing thousands of jobs and showing the way out of the current economic morass for the rest of the country.

The Air Resources Board says the growth of green business and clean tech more than compensating for the costs of the program. Its own analysis shows a per-capita income rise of about $200 per year resulting from changes in the economy, and an annual increase of $7 billion in California’s gross state product.

And to the skeptics; what will the costs be to the state’s economy if we do nothing?

Sources and further reading

The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times

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Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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  1. During the last and previous glacial periods there were temperature and carbon dioxide up-trends and downtrends. Credible data from Vostok and EPICA showing these trends are readily available. Close examination of these data shows unequivocally that on many occasions temperature trended down for centuries while carbon dioxide level was higher than it had been during a prior temperature uptrend. This shows that, at least at that time, temperature was not driven by carbon dioxide level.

    It is well known that added increments of carbon dioxide have less influence than previous increments. This has been elucidated using the added-blankets metaphor. Since there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than during the glacial periods, added increments of carbon dioxide today have even less influence than they did during the glacial periods when they did not drive temperature. Thus added atmospheric carbon dioxide today does not drive temperature and AGW that is based on increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is a mistake.


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