Human beings are generating carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” at an unprecedented rate. A consensus of scientists agrees that those emissions will catastrophically alter our world’s climate if left unchecked.
Power plants are the largest U.S. source of global warming pollution, followed by vehicle emissions (which are the leading source of emissions in California). Half of our nation’s electricity currently comes from coal-fired power plants, which produce about one third of all global warming pollution in the U.S.
The specific effects of global warming in California could include: rising sea levels that threaten the coast; increased death from heat and insect-borne diseases; loss of the Sierra snow pack, resulting in potentially drastic water supply problems; and a dramatic increase in state energy needs. Economic analysts say that adoption of low-carbon policies by west coast states could save the region $40 billion by 2020.
Examples of actions that help curb global warming: In 2002, California led the nation by passing the historic Assembly Bill 1493 (authored by Fran Pavley) into law, mandating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources such as cars and light-duty trucks. The landmark 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32 (Nuñez/Pavley) set a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions and mandated emissions reductions from major stationary sources, and SB 1368 (Perata) prohibited California electric utilities from buying out-of-state electricity that doesn’t meet the state’s greenhouse gas emission standards, which effectively bans the future import of coal-fired electricity.
The United States is still emitting unacceptable and dangerous levels of greenhouse gas pollutants – but California’s leaders, working together with the Obama Administration, can still make a huge difference on a global scale.
Example of actions that exacerbate global warming: Commercial buildings are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through their heavy energy use. AB 888 (Lieu) would have required large commercial buildings approved for construction as of 2013 to meet the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines to improve environmental and energy performance. Similarly, AB 1058 (Laird) would have made California a leader in green buildings, this time with a focus on residential buildings—it would have required that the California Building Standards Commission adopt recognized green building standards for homes by 2013. Both bills were vetoed by former Governor Schwarzenegger in 2007.