The Winning Trilogy to California's Climate Approach: Research, Reduce and Adapt

Erica Morehouse photoNirvana, Lord of the Rings movies and a tasty BLT. Great things seem to come in threes – and California’s vigilant efforts to combat climate change are no exception.

With this week’s release of a major climate adaptation plan draft from California's Natural Resources Agency, the state continues to take bold steps to address climate change and cut pollution using a “research, reduce and adapt” approach.

The winning trilogy:

Conduct Thorough Research

As EDF knows, good policy is grounded in science. National and international reports warn us of the dire consequences of climate change, and on the local level, research shows California is particularly vulnerable to its impacts.  The first step in addressing any problem is gathering the facts, which is why reports from the Climate Action Team (CAT) dive into California specific climate impacts and science on mitigation and adaptation.

Another component of climate research is looking at the hard numbers. How much carbon pollution are large facilities in California emitting? This data is released annually by the Air Resources Board and the US EPA. As recent numbers show, emissions at most of these facilities have been decreasing since 2008, but the state still has a lot work to do to reduce its overall emissions, especially after the closing of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Once policy makers are armed with the science and hard data, they must take action. The CAT’s first report led to the passage of AB 32, California's Global Warming Solutions Act, which aims to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The 2008 Scoping Plan gave a broad overview of how California will use different policies to meet this target, and last month EDF and other stakeholders submitted comments to the 5 year update draft of the Scoping Plan.

This update noted that California is on track to meet its 2020 target, and that the state should focus on setting a new reduction target for 2030 that will set us on the path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. A second draft of this updated Scoping Plan is expected in late January.

Adapt to a Changing Climate

While reducing emissions to avoid catastrophic effects is absolutely critical, climate change is now a reality and some costly and damaging impacts are unavoidable.  That’s why in 2009 California became the first state to develop a comprehensive plan for adapting and living with expected climate impacts including drought, wildfires, rising sea levels and water shortage.

The draft 5-year update of the adaptation plan, released this week, looks at the ways we will need to adapt to things like changing water patterns, more hot days and increased demand on our electricity system.  In addition, the Natural Resources Agency noted the need to better understand impacts on wildlife and habitats, and assess the adequacy of our emergency response systems.

While the science keeps evolving, the need for adaptation to increased impacts keeps growing. And until the global trajectory of carbon pollution reverses, we must continue to push for innovative emission reducing policies.

This trilogy of interlocking strategies — research, reduction and adaptation — provides California with a solid foundation to continue its groundbreaking leadership on climate change.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Erica
    California is the leader when the words Energy Efficiency are mentioned. It gets linked to Flex Your Power. Eyes go to the ceiling looking for another light bulb to replace. It's about electricity.
    It's also now leaning towards transportation. EV's, again more electricity, and having the most expensive blends of gasoline and diesel fuels to reduce emissions.
    We are not in Minnesota, but California still consumes a lot of natural gas by our industries and at large commercial buildings, including prisons and hospitals. With all that California is doing to promote Energy Efficiency and Reduced Emissions and even Water Conservation, they do not promote Increased Natural Gas Energy Efficiency.
    Why Not?
    There are a lot of chimneys poking out of the roofs of these large buildings and industries. Leaving most of these chimneys is a lot of HOT exhaust.
    The DOE states that for very 1 million Btu's of heat energy recovered from these waste exhaust gases, and this recovered heat energy is utilized in the building or facility where it was combusted, 117 lbs of CO2 will NOT be put into the atmosphere.
    How many light bulbs have to be replaced hourly in a building, to keep up with the CO2 reduction happening hourly in the buildings boiler room?
    All aspects of Increased Energy Efficiency are important, we would just like for California to be the leader and apply all methods, and not just the Low Hanging Fruit.
    California also wants to create more green jobs. How many jobs could be created assessing all these locations that have a big chimney poking out of the roof?
    How many engineers will be required to engineer the most efficient application of utilizing all this recovered heat energy?
    How many mechanical firms will be hired to install all these condensing flue gas heat recovery systems?

    What will this do for California's Economy?
    What would this do for California's Environment?