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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 Earth’s -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 sun’s energy within the Earth’s -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.
Here’s a summary of five leading studies and five things California politicians
did in response to the growing threat of global warming this year.

Studies

1. Pedal-to-the-metal burning of fossil fuels could melt Greenland’s
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 China’s 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)

California Actions

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 -dioxide–emissions 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)

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