Code Red for Humanity
Global warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported, warning the world is already certain to face further climate disruptions for decades to come. Humans are “unequivocally” to blame. Rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions could limit some impacts, where the focus is being placed on reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP), such as methane and black carbon. In order to bend the climate curve to delay further catastrophic events, methane and black carbon need to be targeted over the next 10 years. If not, deadly heat waves, gargantuan hurricanes, and other weather extremes, that are already happening, will only become more severe. News at 11 brings that to you every night.
Last year over 4.3 million acres burned from California wildfires, which generated more than 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and an untold amount of black carbon. The 2021 California wildfire season burned 2.1 million acres so far, with two major fires raging on. Greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires have been tracked separately when compared to anthropogenic sources, in large part due to ‘carbon cycling’, which is a burnt-out reason. With black carbon as an SLCP, there should be major concerns on these emissions. With a ‘Code Red for Humanity’ alarm, you would hope the State would answer this clarion call in the near-term, now, and count black carbon from fires as GHG emissions.
With a golden opportunity to address climate change, California Air Resources Board kicked off their 2022 Scoping Plan Third Update process with a series of staff-driven workshops. To be carbon neutral by 2045, CARB proposes to electrify the transportation sector and squeeze out renewable natural gas, bioenergy, and any type of combustion, sooner than is feasible. It was evident that CARB was going to leapfrog over 2030 goals with an electrification dream scheme to actually keep diesel fleets on the road for another 13 to 18 years (which emit black carbon). Heavy-duty electrification could possibly become viable a generation from now, as the waste industry has been phasing out diesel use since the early 2000s.
With a new sense of urgency in an alarming heat wave, Governor Newsom doubled down and requested CARB to evaluate pathways for the State to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and step up the pace to achieve zero carbon electricity by 2030. Syncing the time frames will force CARB to honestly model 2030 targets and utilize existing cost-effective programs that are carbon negative and carbon neutral now with a focus on reducing short-lived climate pollutants.
CARB held a workshop, Climate Change Scoping Plan Scenarios, on August 17, 2021, about how to model carbon neutrality by 2035 and 2045, and support the State’s climate goals and rapid decarbonization of transportation fuels and energy. CARB needs to focus on the climate performance criteria, including lifecycle carbon intensity, ability to provide negative carbon emissions, and SLCP. The CARB Scenarios do not prioritize SLCP, such as methane and black carbon reductions. The presentation on vehicle electrification and petroleum reduction makes no distinction between diesel and other fuels, despite the fact that diesel is a significant source of black carbon emissions. The single biggest opportunity to reduce SLCP emissions in the transportation sector is to replace diesel with carbon negative RNG from organic waste in the near-term. Given the urgency of reducing SLCP emissions, this should be the highest focus in the transportation sector, and yet is not mentioned at all. Increasing use of RNG to reduce SLCP emissions should be an explicit goal of the transportation sector scenario planning. However, looking beyond CARB, with a huge budget surplus we were able to secure funding of $180 million for composting in the San Joaquin Valley to phase out agricultural burning, $160 million for CalRecycle to implement SB 1383, and $50 million for healthy soils.
California is letting 2045 climate change policy goals get in the way of deep greenhouse gas reductions, instead of focusing on methane and black carbon reductions, and it appears that could continue, letting another crisis go to biomass waste. It took A Few Good Men and Women to issue the Code Red, and CARB ‘Can’t Handle The Truth’.