State’s Carbon Emissions And Immigration (California’s Environmental Ambitions vs. The Effects of Immigration)

April 15, 2006: State's Carbon Emissions And Immigration (California's Environmental Ambitions vs. The Effects of Immigration)

Posted on Sat, Apr. 15, 2006

State's carbon emissions and immigration
By Donald F. Anthrop

WHILE environmentalists like to blame SUVs for the increasing carbon dioxide emissions, the data show quite clearly the real problem is population growth, not SUVs.

Between 1990 and 2002 per-capita energy consumption in California actually declined slightly from 253 million BTUs to 227 million BTUs.

However, between 1990 and 2005, the state's population increased 6.3 million — an average of 421,400 people each year.

Recent studies have shown that virtually all of this increase (98 percent) is due to foreign immigration.

If California continues to add 421,400 new residents each year, in 2020, the state's population will be 42.5 million — an increase of 12.6 million above the population in 1990.

If per-capita energy consumption and the carbon intensity of California's energy supply remain the same, these 12.6 million additional people will increase the state's carbon dioxide emissions by 95 million metric tons or about 28 percent above the 1990 level.

The Climate Team Report to the Governor, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has endorsed, proposes limiting carbon dioxide emission in the year 2020 to 1990 levels. To meet this requirement, this 28 percent rise in carbon dioxide emissions would have to be reduced to zero. The net effect of this proposal, then, is that the state is supposed to add 12.6 million people with no increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

It is worth noting that of the projected 437 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the year 2020, about 108 million metric tons, or 25 percent, are expected to come from diesel and jet fuel — fuels over which the state has no control.

The state doesn't control the number of aircraft using California airports.

Therefore, for the state to meet the proposed emissions cap, emissions from the remaining sources (motor vehicles, power plants, industry, residential heating, etc.) will have to be reduced by about 40 percent.

While such reductions are theoretically possible, the costs will prove unacceptable.

Yes, the state could mandate that we all get rid of our pickups, SUVs and cars, and buy motorcycles, but is that a price we are willing to pay?

Indeed, the EU (European Union), which so enthusiastically embraced the Kyoto Protocol, is now falling far short of its goal to reduce carbon emissions 8 percent below 1990 levels.

Only the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Luxembourg, which together account for only 18 percent of EU carbon emissions are on track to comply with Kyoto.

Meanwhile, Department of Energy estimates show that China's carbon dioxide emissions are expected to nearly triple between 1990 and 2020.

The projected 4,244 million metric tons increase in carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 2020 is 45 times the 95 million metric tons reduction that the proposed California cap would achieve.

The bottom line is that the governor's proposed cap on carbon emissions is an extraordinarily expensive exercise in futility.

If the governor and his environmental supporters were really interested in limiting carbon emissions, they would be pressing for curbs on immigration.

But since immigration curbs are politically incorrect, it is easier to pin the blame for “global warming” on the state's motorists.

Anthrop is professor emeritus in the Department of Environmental Studies at San Jose State.