Barring a sweeping policy change or the introduction of new technology, California will fall short of its goals to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The good news is that California remains on pace to cut emissions to their 1990 level by 2020, a goal set out in a 2005 executive order issued by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the subsequent goal of thinning greenhouse-gas trapping emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 currently appears to be out of reach.
Making that goal more difficult is expected population growth and the accompanying increase in demand, with the Department of Finance anticipating that the number of California residents will surpass 50 million around mid century, and expanding economic output. The Berkeley models estimate that emissions will steadily decline over the next few decades before reversing and starting to rise.
Even in the lab's most optimistic scenario -- one that incorporates the most aggressive policies and the most widespread use of alternative energy and low or zero emission vehicles -- California would still be pumping more tons of gases into the atmosphere than the 2005 order envisions.
"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 metric tons of CO2-equivalent per year by 2050," Jeff Greenblatt, a Berkeley Lab researcher who created the models, said in a press release.
The researchers developed three different models for what California's emissions-creation might look over the next few decades, drawing upon input from a range of California agencies, most prominently the California Air Resources Board. They extrapolated emissions coming from several different sources, from housing to electricity generation to water use to vehicles.