The state’s view of climate change

By From page A1 | February 04, 2013

The Sacramento Metropolitan Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy are based on the following conclusions:

Causes and Effects of Climate Change

Climate change is a measurable change in the state of the average weather conditions over a period of time, usually decades or longer.

1. A growing body of scientific research has linked climate change to an increase in the concentration of GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere. Concentrations of atmospheric GHGs has remained relatively constant up until the last 200 years at between 260 and 285 parts per million.

2. Current levels of atmospheric GHGs exceed 390 parts per million.

3. Part of this fluctuation is caused by the natural carbon cycle. Absorption and release of GHGs by the oceans, plants, and the atmosphere is a natural occurrence. However, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that there are 6 billion metric tons of GHG emissions annually from human activity, and while some of this is absorbed by the carbon cycle, roughly 3 billion metric tons are released into the atmosphere each year.

4. While there is uncertainty on how the variation in climate is impacted by this increase in human-produced GHG emissions, it is believed that any increase in GHG concentrations in the atmosphere can increase global temperatures, which can have an impact on weather conditions around the globe.

In the United States, roughly 82 percent of all GHG emissions come from the use of petroleum and natural gas. This equals about 25 percent of global emissions. According to an EIA report, world energy consumption will increase by 47 percent from 2007 to 2035. This increase will be led by the use of liquid fuels, including petroleum and natural gas. Worldwide demand for oil is growing steadily. Current world oil usage is about 90 million barrels per day, with demand rising to around 111 million barrels per day by 2035.

5. The U.S consumed approximately 19.1 million barrels of petroleum-based products per day in 2010. This is expected to increase to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035.

6. Most of the increase in oil demand comes from the transportation sector, where there are the fewest available alternatives to petroleum. Roughly 70 percent of the U.S. oil consumption is in the transportation sector (14 million barrels per day).

7. In California, petroleum-based fuels account for 43 percent of all energy consumption, and 39 percent of that is for transportation.

8. Over the last 20 years, California’s consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel increased 50 percent. However, with recent state and federal regulations on fuel efficiency and alternative fuel sources, transportation-related fuel consumption is projected to decrease 3.7 percent by 2030.

9. Carbon dioxide (along with water) is the natural end product of the clean burning of petroleum fuels, so the only way to reduce the influence on global climate is to reduce the amount of fuel burned, or to find a new fuel for vehicles that does not come from oil. Even carbon emissions from cleaner sources such as natural gas, ethanol, or electricity (unless derived from a renewable source) play a role in global warming. It is widely accepted that carbon dioxide forms approximately 84 percent of all GHG emissions; this is true in California as in the rest of the world.

The impacts from a change in global climate can be felt throughout the region. California has adopted the public policy position that global climate change is “a serious threat to the economic well-being, public health, natural resources, and the environment of California.” Health and Safety Code § 38501 states that:

“The potential adverse impacts of global warming include the exacerbation of air quality problems, a reduction in the quality and supply of water to the state from the Sierra snowpack, a rise in sea levels resulting in the displacement of thousands of coastal businesses and residences, damage to marine ecosystems and the natural environment, and an increase in the incidences of infectious disease, asthma, and other human health-related problems … [and that] … global warming will have detrimental effects on some ofCalifornia’s largest industries, including agriculture, wine, tourism, skiing, recreational and commercial fishing, and forestry (and)…will also increase the strain on electricity supplies necessary to meet the demand for summer air-conditioning in the hottest parts of the State.”

Information obtained from state Website and SACOG documents.

Chris Daley

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