California Climate Change Conference: Latest on AB 32

The California Energy Commission (CEC) hosted its fifth annual confab on climate change, delving into mitigation policy and practices, as well as how the world’s eigth-largest economy is adapting to the climate change that is already occurring.

For the rest of the nation, California and this conference can be considered a litmus test of what is coming down the road (literally and figuratively) for the US transportation, energy and building industries.

“We are a nation state, and we are able to move issues along pretty well,” said CEC Commissioner James Boyd, who said the CEC put out its first report analyzing climate change impacts on state policy and resources in 1999.

Boyd outlined major policy drivers facing the state as it implements its “California Global Climate Solutions Act of 2006” (AB 32):

1. Energy security: “During the 1970s OPEC jerked our chain and the nation’s economy shuddered,” Boyd said.

2. Environmental quality/ fuel supply/ price volatility/ global climate change: “9/11 woke up a lot of people to the fact that people in other places are controlling something we are way too depandedant on.” Besides California being such a large economy, it is the world’s third biggest consumer of gasoline, Boyd noted earlier, with its transportation sector producing the biggest share of its greenhouse gases.

Dan Sperling, board member of The California Air Resources Board, gave a grim forecast of what the state, nation and world are up against in terms of energy supply and demand, and carbon emissions. 

“Over the next 10 years, the world will consume one quarter of all the oil consumed in the world’s entire history. We’re more dependent on few sources–nations are competing with one another.”

Sperling said his agency wanted the state be more proactive in preparing for these developments: “Our number one goal is to stimulate innovation in behavior, technologies and institutions.”

In terms of the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which has been subject to challenges by the Bush Administration EPA, California is proposing that gasoline-based transportation be replaced by a mix of at least 10 percent lower-carbon fuels by 2020. Sperling said the state is leaning toward advocating a mix of electric, hydrogen and biofuels.

California Resources Agency Secretary Mike Chrisman and Stanford professor and co-Nobel prize winner Terry Root concluded the morning with climate trends and adapation measures that will be needed to cope with the state’s already shifting percipitation, rising temperatures and sea level rises.

Root summarized the loss in Sierra Nevada snowpack precipitation, the main source of California’s water supply, as decreasing up to 30 percent by the 2020s, and up to 90 percent by later in the century. She also said 20-30 percent of species are thought to be at risk by the 2020s because of climate change.  

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