New Study Finds California’s Chances Of Meeting Its 2050 Carbon Reductions Are Slim

CREDIT: Shutterstock


CREDIT: Shutterstock

California will need to implement ambitious new policies if it wants to meet its 2050 targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, according to a new report.

The report, published by scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found California is on track to meet its 2020 emissions reductions goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels, but will have to do a lot more to meet its 2050 target of 80 percent below the state’s 1990 levels. Unfortunately, the research showed that chances of meeting those 2050 targets, put in place by an executive order in 2005, are slim. The state needs to reach 85 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent per year by 2050, down from 448 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent per year in 2011.

The report looked at three scenarios: Scenario 1, which assumed the state would not implement any new climate policies; Scenario 2, which adds on some new policies such as expanding waste diversion and biofuel useage; and Scenario 3, which adds policies such as higher fuel efficiencies for cars and a higher renewable portfolio standard. Even under the third, most ambitious scenario, the report found that the state can’t meet its 2050 goal.


CREDIT: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

“This is quite a stringent requirement, and even if we aggressively expand our policies and implement fledgling technologies that are not even on the marketplace now, our analysis shows that California will still not be able to get emissions to 85 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent per year by 2050,” the report’s author Jeff Greenblatt said.

California’s emissions reductions targets are some of the most ambitious in the country, and the state has done more than most other states in ramping up clean energy and reducing emissions. California’s cap and trade program went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year, and the state recently signed on to a climate pact that will attempt to link its climate change and clean energy policies with those of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. In 2011, California’s carbon emissions fell for the third straight year since businesses in the state began reporting their emissions data in 2008.

But according to a 2011 study also conducted by the Berkeley Lab, California’s population “is expected to surge from 37 million to 55 million and the demand for energy is expected to double” over the next four decades. That makes the state’s 2050 goal particularly daunting, but the 2011 study lays out the new technologies still being developed that could help California reach its 2050 goal, including artificial photosynthesis, fusion energy, hydrogen fuel, and advanced batteries for vehicles and grid storage. If these and other technologies are developed in time, California may still have a chance of reaching its target.