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Global Warming - Impact Zones

Impact Zone - U.S. California

U.S. California
The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

California leading on global warming solutions

California is leading the charge for meaningful action on global warming here in the United States. It has passed some of the most ambitious global warming legislation in the country. It has increased energy efficiency while growing its economy. And it has done so because Californians see the threats of increased wildfires, decreased snowpack, and rising sea-levels as immediate and significant.


Varied climate means varied impacts

From its sandy beaches to its fertile Central Valley to its snow-capped peaks, California is a state with a varied climate that experiences a range of global warming impacts. California has already experienced a warming of more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1920s. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at business-as-usual rates, California could heat up to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with dire environmental and economic consequences.

Snowpack in California's mountains is already melting up to a month earlier than in the recent past and less snow is accumulating at lower and mid altitudes. Warmer weather coupled with less water is a dangerous combination for the state's agricultural industry, a significant part of California's economy. As California's climate warms, the range for growing many fruits and vegetables will shrink, while the range for invasive species and pests will expand.

California coasts have already experienced about 7 inches of sea level rise over the past century and this rise is accelerating. By 2100, sea level rise could well exceed 3 feet if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated and 6 feet is possible, threatening the state's famous beaches and coastal communities with inundation, erosion, and increased vulnerability to storms.

Wildfires have become more frequent in the past few decades, because of warming temperatures, a drier climate and lower stream flows.


Leading the charge

In 2004, California established regulations to reduce global warming pollution from new cars and trucks by 30 percent when fully phased in. Since then, more than a dozen states have adopted the California regulations. In May 2009, President Obama brokered a historic agreement between automakers, the State of California and environmental organizations to achieve a national fuel economy standard of 35.5 miles per gallon which would be reached by model year 2016, accelerating the implementation of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act fuel economy standards co-authored by Chairman Markey. 

In September 2006, the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), the country's first comprehensive global warming legislation with an enforceable cap on global warming emissions, became law in California. The state is now obligated to reduce heat-trapping emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 with a long term goal of reducing emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. In 2010, California voters ensured that the state will continue to lead on global warming solutions by defeating the oil and gas industry-supported Prop 23 that would have effectively repealed AB32.

California also enacted the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance Standard for Major Power Plant Investments. This legislation requires that long-term electricity generation investments come from clean energy that emits little to no global warming pollution and helps ensure that the electricity generation sector will be environmentally sustainable as California moves to greatly reduce its global warming pollution.

Reducing energy demand and generating on-site, carbon-free energy will be crucial components of meeting California's global warming reduction goals. Leading by example, the state has required all new or renovated state buildings to meet LEED Silver or higher green building standards and established an overall goal for all state buildings to be 20 percent more efficient by 2015. California's "Million Solar Roofs" law came into effect in 2007. It requires that homebuilders offer solar panels as a standard option for new homebuyers and expands net-metering and solar rebate programs across the state with the aim of creating a million new solar roofs in California during the next ten years.



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