Climate change emotions played a role in the leftward tilt of the House in the 2018 elections. Already some of the many Presidential contenders are on board for the Democrat’s climate change platform: “We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century.” Yet few are embracing steps that are more radical. The Green New Deal is a progressives’ dystopian plan to have government dominate agriculture, industry, transportation, and electric power – in the name of greenhouse gas control and “social justice” – all by 2030. The publicity attending a Senate vote on the dismal Green New Deal may help push Senators back into embracing plausible actions for controlling greenhouse gas.
Sixty-two percent of the public belive that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, but that is no excuse for a socialist revolution. Our track record shows a willingness to pursue sensible measures that moderate greenhouse gas emissions from power generation and transportation. A handful of us are enamored with electric vehicles and solar panels on our rooftops. Most of us rarely think about what else we can personally do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Unfortunately, the targets and especially the pace of CO2 cutbacks specified in the Paris Climate Accords may be too aggressive – even for states such as California which has pursued both CO2 emissions control and self-aggrandizing publicity.
In California, 2018 total carbon dioxide emissions climbed 3.4%, the second largest increase in two decades. California’s electricity generation emissions had declined by 9% in 2017 and 13% in 2016, but reductions reversed course and California increased power generation emissions by 2% in 2018, slightly above the U.S. average of 1.9%.
Many factors can alter the volume of emissions in a given year. A cold winter in 2018 resulted in consumers using their furnaces more than usual. A buoyant economy in 2018 led to more automobile commuters, more airplanes flying, more HVAC usage for offices and factories, more power to run industrial processes, and more package delivery. Unlike in 2017, California had less precipitation that could be routed through hydroelectric turbines. To compensate, the state relied on more natural gas power generation. The switch from coal to natural gas power generation had been underway for some time, and most of the resulting CO2 reductions had been harvested in earlier years (emissions fell by 12% between 2007 and 2015).
Tailpipe emissions are 40% of California’s CO2 emissions. That is more than twice the emissions from electric power generation in the state. California has sought to control emissions from vehicles through a mix of electric vehicles, higher fossil fuel economy, and smarter urban planning that discourages suburban sprawl and multi-family buildings. Californians buy more than half of all electric vehicles sold in the United States, signaling success on that front, but The White House’s intention to slow the increase in CAFE standards, and potential decision to reverse the California’s exemption, will make it more difficult to meet tailpipe emission goals on fossil fuel vehicles.
California officials say meeting the target of a further 40% reduction by 2030 is unlikely without transformative changes in state residents’ driving habits. They cannot count on help from the “serially delayed, budget-exploding high-speed rail system” which was recently put on hold.
U.S. states such as Texas, New York and Georgia face similar problems in curbing emissions. It would be difficult for the U.S. to meet the Paris Accord CO2 reductions, even if the U.S. were still a member. A few other countries may be on track for the Accord, but major countries such as China and India are still pumping out CO2 at a rapid pace protected by the excuse that they are still “developing.” Those big polluters offset the valiant efforts of many other countries.
The Paris Accord appears too lofty a goal for even U.S. states pursuing the goals aggressively. As 2020 nears, there is an opportunity for our leaders to coalesce on some pragmatic. We certainly should not adopt or even consider a plan that undermines prosperity and diminishes the quality of life in favor of Green Socialist misery.