California GHG Inventory Shows Slight Downward Trend. Mostly.

Except not in passenger vehicles. Or refineries. And decreases in other sectors are not dramatic

California GHG emission trends. Image: CARB emissions inventory
California GHG emission trends. Image: CARB emissions inventory
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The California Air Resources Board released its latest greenhouse gas inventory, which uses data as late as 2017. It takes a long time to collect and analyze GHG data, so the process of tracking emissions tends to be a backwards-looking process.

The report shows that California seems to be reaching its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for 2020 a little early, which is great. “This is further evidence that California’s groundbreaking climate regulations are helping to deliver the greenhouse gas reductions needed to meet our 2020 target – and give us a running start at our even more ambitious 2030 target, too,” according to California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols.

Past emissions inventories have shown reliance on hydropower for zero emission energy, but solar power is growing. Image: CARB emissions inventory
Past emissions inventories have shown reliance on hydropower for zero-emission energy, but solar power is growing. Image: CARB emissions inventory

The latest trends show a decent downward trend in the electricity sector, which has been under the cap-and-trade program longer than other industries. The overall state power grid is reducing its reliance on natural gas, which is the main source of greenhouse gases for electricity generation. Over time, the state’s electric grid has been using more zero-greenhouse-gas sources, and in 2017, those sources surpassed fossil fuel sources for the first time since California started tracking its greenhouse gas emissions in 2000.

Breakdown of GHG emissions from transportation.Image: CARB emissions inventory
Breakdown of GHG emissions from transportation. Image: CARB emissions inventory

But emissions in other sectors are still rising, particularly from on-road vehicle use and oil and gas refineries. CARB says there are signs that these may be leveling off, because they “did not rise as fast as in previous years.” But they still rose.

Per capita GHG emissions have dropped a lot since their peak in 2001, and overall emissions have dropped at a slower rate since they reached peak levels in 2004.

Image: CARB emissions inventory
Image: CARB emissions inventory

The inventory report also finds some good news around the carbon intensity of California’s economy–the amount of carbon pollution per million dollars of gross domestic product, which is declining even as the economy is growing.

Note this report inventories greenhouse gas emissions, not all emissions, although other pollutants tend to rise and fall in similar ways.

More details can be found in the report.

Image: CARB emissions inventory
Overall GHG emissions from all sources. Image: CARB emissions inventory

4 thoughts on California GHG Inventory Shows Slight Downward Trend. Mostly.

  1. It means the state is still trying to get a handle on how many tons of GHGs are being emitted by industry, vehicles, and other sources. Does not include every source

  2. Switching from to fossil fuel to electric power will always be good, IMHO, be it one’s personal motor vehicle, or a commuter RR. But for Caltrain, electrification’s greatest impact will be on air quality, not GHG emissions, for the neighbors in particular, and for the passengers and crew who literally inhale diesel fumes, depending on the car they are seated in, as the train goes through four tunnels as it leaves the SF depot going south.
    See: Caltrain Electrification Can’t Come Soon Enough for Neighbors
    https://www.planetizen.com/news/2017/12/96063-caltrain-electrification-cant-come-soon-enough-neighbors

  3. Any bets whether Caltrain switch to EMU will even register on this chart? It’s already .4%, but the roughly 5000 miles a day they do might not be much.

    Better question is whether taxes of fuel for transportation need to increase and fund electric car rebates and charging stations.

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