Climate Change: Information and Links
See this page for information on District activities relating to climate change.
New: See report and video from the National Academy of Sciences.
For the latest on California's climate change actions, see the California Climate Change Portal website.
The world's average temperature is up 1.4°F (0.8°C) since 1850; some of the coldest, most remote spots have warmed up much more. This phenomenon is referred to as global warming, or global climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the global climate is changing at a rate unmatched in the past one thousand years, and that this change is due to human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, producing a buildup of greenhouse gases.
Background: The Greenhouse Effect
The "greenhouse effect" refers to the natural process by which the atmosphere traps heat to keep the earth warm enough to sustain life. The atmosphere contains gases that trap heat, these are known as greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, and others. The greenhouse effect is depicted below.
The burning of fossil fuels--such as gasoline to power vehicles or coal to generate electricity—releases greenhouse gases. These human-caused releases of greenhouse gases are driving global warming. Most of these emissions are in the form of carbon dioxide. In the United States, electricity generation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by transportation.
Note: For current information, see the California Climate Change portal: www.climatechange.ca.gov.
A 2006 report, Our Changing Climate - Assessing the Risks to California, projected effects of climate change in the state under three different emissions scenarios - a small increase in greenhouse gas emissions, a medium to large increase, and a larger increase. The report, issued by the California Climate Change Center (under the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research Program) projected a warming of between 1 and 2.3° F in the state in the next few decades, and a warming ranging from 3 to 10.5° F by the end of the century, depending on the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
The report projected climate change impacts in the state, including:
It is difficult to predict localized impacts of global climate change, and to determine how fast changes will occur, or when particular “tipping points” may be reached, as factors combine, causing sudden effects. For example, increases in surface temperature lead to less sea ice and snow cover, raising temperatures more, and reducing reflection of the sun’s heat. As more water evaporates, additional water vapor acts to increase temperature. In addition, higher temperatures may result in higher smog levels in some areas, as ground-level ozone forms more readily in hotter temperatures. A modeling study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory projected that by 2050, air quality throughout the Western United States (including California) will deteriorate in the fall season, due to a temperature increase of up to 4 degrees centigrade.California's Landmark Legislation
In 2002, Assembly Bill 1493 was signed into law in California - this law requires the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to implement regulations requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in the state.
In September of 2006, Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, became law. The Act makes the ARB responsible for monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state. The Act requires the ARB to establish a statewide greenhouse gas emissions cap for 2020 that is based on 1990 emissions levels. ARB determined this cap to be 427 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases. ARB also developed the AB 32 Scoping Plan, which identifies regulations and market mechanisms to reduce emissions. ARB has begun implementing the Scoping Plan. As of January 1, 2012, the state implemented a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from major contributors.
A number of other state bills have passed and been signed into law in subsequent years, intended to support the goals and implementation of AB 32 by achieving greenhouse gas emissions through changes in land use and transportation planning, incentives for use of alternative energy and transportation technologies, green building strategies, improved energy conservation, and more. In addition, the state is working on initiatives to counteract expected effects of climate change in California.
You are responsible for approximately 20 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year (average for U.S. residents, according toan MIT study). Too put this in perspective, an average car driven 10,000 miles emits 2.6 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year. An estimated 64 percent of your contribution comes from your use of electricity, and your use of your car. So what can you do?
Here are some ideas.
Many of the choices you make to reduce your personal contribution to the global climate change problem will also reduce air pollution. See Tips for Green Living for additional ideas.
Santa Barbara County county are invited to apply for project grants to reduce energy or cut traffic and pollution at school sites. See this page for more info, or contact Mary Byrd at the District at 961-8833.
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