Climate change in California

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Animated map of the progression of the drought in California in 2014, during which the drought covered 100% of California. As of December 2014, 75% of California is under Extreme (Red) or Exceptional (Maroon) Drought.

California has taken legislative steps towards reducing the possible effects of climate change by incentives and plans for clean cars, renewable energy, and stringent caps on big polluting industries.[1]

Scoping Plan[edit]

Development of the Scoping Plan is a central requirement of AB 32, that calls on California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.[2]

The comprehensive approach includes both new and existing measures in every sector of California's economy.

It includes a series of proposals that would become law in 2012, with some measures going into effect two years earlier. The initiatives include implementing a cap-and-trade program on carbon dioxide emissions (that will be developed in conjunction with the Western Climate Initiative, to create a regional carbon market) that will require buildings and appliances to use less energy, oil companies to make cleaner fuels, and utilities to provide a third of their energy from renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal power and proposes to expand and strengthen existing energy efficiency programs. The Plan will also encourage development of walkable cities with shorter commutes, high-speed rail as an alternative to air travel, and will require more hybrid vehicles to move goods and people, following the implementation of the California Clean Car law (the Pavley standards).[3]

Several additional initiatives and measures play important roles in reaching the required reductions under AB 32. These include:[2]

  • full deployment of the Million Solar Roofs initiative.
  • a high-speed rail.
  • water-related energy efficiency measures; and
  • a range of regulations to reduce emissions from trucks and from ships docked in California ports.


California has enacted climate change legislation & executive orders:[4]

Similar laws[edit]

States with similar limits are: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Jersey.

In 2006, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed interest in California joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative[6]

AB 1493[edit]

It is the successor bill to AB 1058, was enacted on July 22, 2002 by Governor Gray Davis and mandates that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) develop and implement greenhouse gas limits for vehicles beginning in model year 2009. Subsequently, as directed by AB 1493, the CARB on September 24, 2004 approved regulations limiting the amount of greenhouse gas that may be released from new passenger cars, SUVs and pickup trucks sold in California in model year 2009. The automotive industry has sued, claiming this is simply a way to impose gas mileage standards on automobiles—a field already preempted by federal rules. The case is working its way through the court system. The CARB staff's analysis has concluded that the new rules will result in savings for vehicle buyers through lower fuel expenses that will more than offset the increased initial costs of new vehicles. Critics claim that these will only work if serious reductions are made in automobile and truck sizes.

California standard uses grams per mile average CO2-equivalent value, which means that emissions of the various greenhouse gases are weighted to take into account their differing impact on climate change (i.e. maximum 323 g/mi (200 g/km) in 2009 and 205 g/mi (127 g/km) in 2016 for passenger cars).[7]

A federal district court ruled on 12 December 2007 that the state and federal laws could co-exist,[8] but on 19 December, the EPA denied California's request for the necessary waiver to implement its law, saying the local emissions had little effect on global warming, and that the conditions in California were not "compelling and extraordinary" as required by law.[9] California intends to sue the EPA to force reconsideration, given the precedent of Massachusetts v. EPA, which ruled that carbon dioxide was an air pollutant which EPA had authority to regulate.[10][11] Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington are also interested in adopting California's automobile emissions standards.

AB 32[edit]

In September 2006, the California State Legislature passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006[12] with the goal of reducing man-made California greenhouse gas emissions (1.4% of global emissions in 2004[13]) back to 1990 emission levels by 2020. The legislation grants the Air Resource Board extraordinary powers to set policies, draw up regulations, lead the enforcement effort, levy fines and fees to finance it and punish violators. The technical and regulatory requirements are far reaching. Some of this sweeping regulation is being challenged in the courts.[citation needed] The law is intended to make low-carbon technology more attractive, and promote its adoption in production in California.

Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentive Program[edit]

The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentive Program (abbreviated as AFVIP,[14] also known as Fueling Alternatives) is funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), offered throughout the State of California and administered by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE).[15] A total of $25 million [16] was appropriated to promote the use and production of vehicles capable of running on alternative fuels. Such alternative energy sources include Compressed Natural Gas and electricity via all-electric vehicles and Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).[17][18]

Vehicles using alternative fuels include Global Electric Motorcars, Vectrix and ZAP vehicles. The 2008 Tesla Roadster and 2008 ZENN neighborhood electric vehicle are also on the list of vehicles eligible for rebates under the Fueling Alternatives.

PHEV Research Center[edit]

Main article: PHEV Research Center

The PHEV Research Center was launched with fundings from the California Air Resources Board. Fueling Alternatives includes, among others, Global Electric Motorcars, Vectrix and ZAP vehicles. The 2008 Tesla Roadster and 2008 ZENN neighborhood electric vehicle have been added to the list of vehicles eligible for rebates under the Fueling Alternatives [13] .

Vehicle Global Warming Score Labels[edit]

California is making it mandatory for cars to be labeled with global warming scores, figures that take into account emissions from vehicle use and fuel production. The law requiring the labels goes into effect at the start of next year for all 2009 model cars, though its expected the labels will be popping up on cars in 2008.[19]

Extreme weather incidents[edit]

A 2011 study projected that the frequency and magnitude of both maximum and minimum temperatures would increase significantly as a result of global warming.[20]


According to the NOAA Drought Task Force report of 2014, the drought is not part of a long-term change in precipitation and was a symptom of the natural variability, although the record-high temperature that accompanied the recent drought may have been amplified due to human-induced global warming.[21]

Logo of the Save Our Water campaign

By February 1, 2014, Felicia Marcus, the chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, claimed the 2014 drought "is the most serious drought we've faced in modern times." Marcus argues that California needs to "conserve what little we have to use later in the year, or even in future years."[22] A 16-year study of how precipitation affects groundwater dependent vegetation was conducted and the results showed that the alkali meadow vegetation plant community is groundwater dependent, and that this characteristic buffers the system from the effects of drought. This means that certain plants are actually able to help prevent droughts, but can only do so if groundwater is maintained at a certain level. One of the reasons that the study was conducted was to ascertain whether the Owens Valley region of California could handle any practiced or proposed groundwater extraction. [23]

In February 2014, the California drought reached for the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project to shortages of water supplies. The California Department of Water Resources planned to reduce water allocations to farmland by 50%. California's 38 million residents experienced 13 consecutive months of drought. This is particularly an issue for the state's 44.7 billion dollar agricultural industry, which produces nearly half of all U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables.[24] This is after the LADWP expected to increase the pumping of aquifers to about 1·36 ×10 8m3 a year (City of Los Angeles and County of Inyo 1991) but the United States Geological Survey(USGS) has reported that a sustainable pumping rate is a third lower, at around 8·64 ×10 7m³ a year (Danskin 1998).

According to NASA, tests published in January 2014 have shown that the twelve months prior to January 2014 were the driest on record, since record-keeping began in 1885.[25] In mid-May 2014, the US Drought Monitor analysis showed that 100% of California was already under "Severe Drought" or a higher level.[citation needed] The 2014 drought is considered the worst in 1,200 years.[26][27][28] As California received additional rainfall in December 2014, this was not expected to end California's drought, and trees were at risk due to weakened roots.[29][30] Experts also noted that due to the soil's extreme dryness and low groundwater levels, it would take significantly more rain–at least five more similar storms–to end the drought.[31][32] On December 18, it was revealed that almost all of the Exceptional Drought in Northern California had been reduced to Extreme Drought severity, as a result of the winter storms that brought rain to California during December.[33]

In 2014, a study by the UC California Institute for Water Resources was released which found that rainfall has been abnormally high since the late 1800s.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Press Release: 2008-06-26 Plan to slash greenhouse gases sets state on path to clean energy, new economic growth
  3. ^ ENN: California unveils ambitious climate plan
  4. ^ Documents About Climate Change and California
  5. ^ "SB-1204 California Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program.". CA gov. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Gov. Schwarzenegger Announces Executive Order to Begin Implementation of Landmark Greenhouse Gas Legislation; Focuses on Developing Market-Based Solutions - Press Release by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  7. ^ Notice, the final rulemaking package was approved by OAL and filed with the Secretary of the State on September 15, 2005 -it became operative on October 15, 2005- and Final Regulation Order that amends the California Code of Regulations.
  8. ^
  9. ^ EPA Rejects California's Greenhouse Gas Tailpipe Law
  10. ^ Massachusetts vs. EPA, 05-1120 - full text
  11. ^ Ruling helps California battle global warming
  12. ^ Text of AB 32
  13. ^ Brown, Susan J. "California Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trends and Selected Policy Options" (Slide presentation). California Energy Commission. [1]
  14. ^ "Alternative Fuel Incentive Program". Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  15. ^ "Center For Sustainability Energy". CCSE. Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  16. ^ "ARB Public Meeting For Allocation of $25 Million". Retrieved 2010-09-03. 
  17. ^ California Center for Sustainable Energy : Fueling Alternatives Rebate Countdown
  18. ^ California Center for Sustainable Energy : Fueling Alternatives
  19. ^ Pat Dollard | Young Americans | Blog Archive » New California Law: New Cars Must Have Global Warming Rating Sticker
  20. ^ Mastrandrea, M. D.; Tebaldi, C.; Snyder, C. W.; Schneider, S. H. (2011). "Current and future impacts of extreme events in California". Climatic Change 109: 43. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0311-6.  edit
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Amid Drought, California Agency Won't Allot Water.". Daily Herald  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required) (Arlington Heights, IL). 1 February 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "California drought: no relief in sight, Drinking water and farming are at risk from state's ongoing drought, but forecasts offer little hope". The Guardian (UK). 3 February 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  25. ^ Drought Stressing California’s Plantscape, Earth Observatory, NASA, February 2014 
  26. ^
  27. ^ California’s Drought Is Now the Worst in 1,200 Years Dec. 5, 2014
  28. ^ California drought most severe in 1,200 years, study says December 5, 2014 LA Times
  29. ^ Rice, Doyle (December 10, 2014). "California braces for fiercest storm in 5 years". USA Today. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  30. ^ Erdman, Jon; Wiltgen, Nick; Lam, Linda. "California Storm: High Wind Warnings, Flood Watches, Blizzard Warnings Issued for West Coast Storm". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  31. ^ Lurie, Julia (December 12, 2014). "Think California’s Huge Storm Will End the Drought? Think Again". Wired Science. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  32. ^ Deprez, Esme E.; Vekshin, Alison (December 11, 2014). "California Would Need Five More Super Storms to Quell Drought". Bloomberg. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Warnert, Jeannette E. (27 March 2014). "The California drought is helping return the weather pattern to normal". Green Blog. Regents of the University of California. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
    Scauzillo, Steve (20 December 2015). "Drought: December rainfall breaks records but California needs more". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
    Huttner, Paul (31 January 2015). "Tundra Time continues, California reaches ‘Drought Critical’ phase". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 10 March 2015. What’s more, much of the state’s development over the last 150 years came during an abnormally wet era, which scientists say could come to a quick end with the help of human-induced climate change. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]