Tuesday, October 21, 2008

California Maps a Plan to Slow Down Global Warming

California lawmakers tried to answer that question two years ago when they passed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a first-of-its-kind law that spelled out the state's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of any federal regulation, the law ordered the state to lower its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, a 25 percent reduction. "We simply must do everything in our power to slow down global warming before it's too late," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said at the time, thumbing his nose, many thought, at a White House that was dragging its feet on climate change.

This week, the California Air Resources Board, the state agency tasked with implementing the law, released the first details of exactly what the state must do to achieve its global warming goals. In a 142-page report many experts believe could serve as a policy template for other states—and even the federal government—the board provides specific estimates of exactly how and where the state could have an impact on climate change. To return to 1990 carbon emissions levels, the plan says, the state will need to reduce its annual emissions by about 4 tons per person—from 14 tons currently to about 10 tons in 2020. The report calls this goal "ambitious but achievable." According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States as a country produces more than 20 tons of carbon dioxide per capita each year, while countries like Japan and the United Kingdom produce closer to 10 tons per person. The state of Idaho, which, like California, does not rely on coal-powered energy, produces about 11 tons of carbon emissions per capita—the least of any U.S. state.'

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