In a year in which the movie The Day After Tomorrow dramatized global warming, the world especially California finally seemed to get serious about climate change. President Bush, of course, disavowed the problem, but Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the international pact aimed at stabilizing the Earths -climate. It will take effect February 16, -requiring 128 nations to reduce carbon -dioxide and other gases emitted by burning fossil fuel that, like glass in a greenhouse, hold the suns energy within the Earths -atmosphere to warm the planet.
As gloomy studies pointed to the need for urgent action on climate change, California thought globally and acted locally to reduce greenhouse emissions. Heres a summary of five leading studies and five things California politicians did in response to the growing threat of global warming this year.
1. Pedal-to-the-metal burning of fossil fuels could melt Greenlands ice sheet a process already under way increasing sea levels as much as 23 feet, enough to swamp Los Angeles and other low-lying areas. The die could be cast for the melting by 2050. (From Nature at www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v428/n6983/abs/428616a_fs.html)
2. Global warming could cut Chinas grain harvest by up to 37 percent. Chinese harvests already are falling, forcing its 1.3 billion people to import more food. (From the Chinese and U.K. governments at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/chinareport/china-climatechange.pdf)
3. Hurricanes will increase in intensity some 21 percent as Earth warms, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The study came in a year with more than its share of powerful storms, including hurricanes Charley, Ivan and Jean, which battered Florida and the Gulf Coast. (From Journal of Climate Change at www.gfdl.noaa.gov/reference/bibliography/2004/tk0401.pdf)
4. Unrestrained greenhouse emissions are likely to reduce Sierra Nevada snow pack, upon which California depends for water, by 70 percent to 90 percent. Warmer summers will add 600 to 1,000 annual heat-related deaths in Los Angeles, too. (From Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/101/34/12422)
5. The population of krill, small crustaceans at the base of the oceanic food chain in the Southern Hemisphere, has fallen by 80 percent since 1970 due to reduced ice coverage near the South Pole. (From Nature at www.nature.com/news/2004/041101/pf/432004a_pf.html)
1. California adopted the first greenhouse-gas-emissions standards for autos in the nation. Seven other states and Canada may soon adopt the California standards too, which are to reduce automotive greenhouse emissions 30 percent by 2016 if they survive a legal challenge by automakers. (See www.arb.ca.gov/regact/grnhsgas/isor.pdf)
2. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined with Oregon and Washington in a West Coast climate-protection plan that will cut greenhouse-gas emissions through tough new energy-efficiency standards for appliances and buildings and, eventually, carbon -dioxideemissions reduction standards for power plants and factories. (See www.energy.ca.gov/global_climate_change/index.html)
3. Mayor James Hahn pulled the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power out of a $2.1 billion coal-power-plant expansion project in Utah and set the department on a course to make 20 percent of its electricity with -renewable energy. (See www.lacity.org/mayor/oldpresss/mayormyrpress27422409_08242004.pdf)
4. The state Public Utilities Commission required California electric utilities to recognize the cost of carbon-dioxide emissions on the environment under new accounting procedures for construction of new power plants and long-term electricity-purchase contracts. For purposes of analysis, utilities will have to add a cost for carbon-dioxide emissions when judging which power sources are cheapest. The procedure will not raise electricity bills appreciably, but will level the playing field for more expensive wind and solar power. (See www.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/COMMENT_DECISION/41385.doc beginning at Page 128)
5. Schwarzenegger backed a bill to build a -million solar rooftops in California. It was scaled way back, but does provide $60 million for five years to help install the systems. The governor will be back for more next year. (See www.governor.ca.gov)