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Climate Action Plans Fail to Deliver

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Essay title: Climate Action Plans Fail to Deliver

Around the country, localities, states and multi-state regions are convening Climate Change Task Forces aimed at developing plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As the name suggests, these groups have been created to develop Climate Action Plans that are intended to lessen the projected impacts of anthropogenic climate change around the world in general, but more particularly, in each state.

In every case, the Action Plans include a lengthy list of cookie-cut, prescribed actions spread across all segments of society, and that are aimed towards reducing future emissions of greenhouse gases to a level below some arbitrarily set target. In no case do any of the Plans lay out what quantified effects their recommended emissions cuts will have on local, regional or global climate. The reason why not? None of the Climate Action Plans will have any meaningful effect on the climate – or any change in future temperatures or sea levels.

Here's why.

In 2007, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) — the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human industrial activities — totaled 27,600 million metric tons (mmtCO2). The United States, as a whole, contributed 5,900 mmtCO2 to that total, or about 21.4%. Individual localities, states, etc., contributed much less (see columns 2 and 3 in the Table below for a state by state breakdown of total and percentage of global emissions).

Even more importantly, the percentage of global, manmade CO2 emissions from the U. S. (and each individual state) will decrease over the 21st century as the growing demand for power in developing countries such as China and India – and beginning in 2012, the Middle East – rapidly outpaces the growth of our CO2 emissions (EIA, 2007).

During the past 5 years, global emissions of CO2 from human activity have increased at an average rate of 3.5%/yr, with China alone contributing nearly 2/3rds of the new emissions (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2008). This means that the annual increase of global CO2 emissions is several times greater than the total emissions from most of the individual 50 states.

Therefore, even a cessation of all CO2 emissions from any particular state will be completely subsumed by global emissions growth in only a matter of months! In fact, emissions increases produced by China alone rapidly overwhelm any emissions reductions made in the U.S. (see columns 4 and 5 of the Table below for a breakdown of how quickly statewide emissions cessations are subsumed by emissions growth globally and by China alone). Given the magnitude of global emissions and the rate of global emission growth, even regulations prescribing a complete cessation, rather than a partial reduction, of local, state, or even national CO2 emissions will have absolutely no meaningful effect on global climate.

In other words, state mitigation plans are "all pain and no gain" – a folly bordering on official malfeasance.

As a demonstration of this, we employ the methodology used by Wigley (1998). Wigley undertook an examination of the climate impact of participating nations' adherence to the CO2 emissions controls agreed under the UN's Kyoto Protocol. He found that if all developed countries meet their commitments in 2010 and maintain them through 2100, with a mid-range sensitivity of surface temperature to changes in CO2, the amount of warming "saved" by the Kyoto Protocol would be 0.07°C by 2050 and 0.15°C by 2100. The global sea level rise "saved" would be 2.6 cm, or about one inch.

By comparison, a complete cessation of CO2 emissions by individual states [allowing not so much as a camp fire] amounts to only a tiny fraction of the worldwide reductions assumed in Wigley's global analysis. Thus, state and regional mitigation impacts on future trends in global temperature and sea level will be only a minuscule fraction of the calculated, negligible global effects claimed for Kyoto.

To demonstrate the futility of state-by-state emissions regulations, we apply Wigley's (1998) methodology to each individual state, under the following assumptions: 1) the ratio of U.S. CO2 emissions to those of the developed countries which have agreed to limits under the Kyoto Protocol remains constant at 39% throughout the 21st century; 2) that developing countries such as China and India continue to emit at an increasing rate —consequently, the annual proportion of global CO2 emissions from human activity that is contributed by human activity in the United States will decline; and 3) that the proportion of total U.S. CO2 emissions from each state remains constant throughout the 21st century.

With these assumptions and using Wigley's (1998)

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