The Napa County Planning Commission will consider adopting the Final Draft Climate Action Plan on Wednesday, July 5, at 10 a.m. If the plan becomes a reality, we'll be stuck with yet another "half-way measure" that places short term profit over the long term health and well-being of our dangerously compromised climate.
Half-way measures are no longer acceptable because we have entered a non-linear period of global warming. Global mean temperature (GMT) has risen gradually since the industrial revolution, but beginning in 2013, the GMT anomaly has sharply risen from 0.8 to 1.2 degrees Celsius. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fifth Assessment Report, describes rising radiative forcing levels as driving the increases in global warming. A lot of people don’t understand this, but today’s 2.4 W/m2 is sufficient excess heat to push GMT over 1.85 degrees Celsius. The heat is locked in. 2.6 W/m2 is expected within this decade, enough to push past the irreversible climate tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius, the Paris Agreement’s upper goal.
We need a revolution in thought and deed to reverse this climate collapse but world leaders are goofing off. Key local leaders are averting their gaze and that’s really dangerous. Everyone who has the truth must speak the truth now.
Unfortunately, our CAP is being finalized using antiquated measuring standards at a time when both the state and our regional air district (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) are shifting focus to short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP), which have a much greater warming effect than CO2 (e.g. methane, black carbon, F-gases and ozone). Methane is 34 times more powerful and black carbon 900 times more powerful than CO2.
Moreover, their global warming potential is many times higher in the near term (10 years) when we still have a chance to postpone irreversible climate tipping points. We need to focus where GHG reductions can be most effective because the CAP will determine what future measures developers take to reduce emissions. We can’t be burning anymore. We’re smart enough to know it. What’s to prevent us from stopping?
Napa County’s Final Draft CAP offers a variety of solutions to stabilizing the climate. Instead of focusing on short-lived climate pollutants, however, the top three priorities for making the biggest cuts in GHG emissions by the year 2030 are:
1. A mandatory measure for replacing your gas water heater with an electric one (unless you’d rather not do it, and prefer a more efficient gas heater instead).
2. A voluntary measure for replacing your gas and diesel-powered farm equipment with electric or alternatively-fueled equipment (unless it’s too hard to do).
3. A voluntary measure for replacing your boat’s gas or diesel-burning engine with an alternatively-powered marine engine (unless you’d rather not).
No. 4 on the priority list is about land use. As the California Supreme Court recently recognized, local governments bear the primary burden of evaluating a land use project’s impact on GHG emissions. While the CAP correctly identifies the critical role forests play in sequestering carbon, the county expects their continued destruction pursuant to General Plan projections. According to the California Air Resources Board’s most recent climate change Scoping Plan (2014), local land use planning must take an integrated approach that avoids conversion of forests to other uses.
Yet in its land use strategies to reduce greenhouse gases, the county proposes that up to 70 percent of on-site trees may be removed. While replanting would be required, deforestation sanctioned in the CAP is not only contrary to state policy but scientifically unacceptable. Changing our attitude toward forests is an enormous lift, given the entrenched nature of the practice and the economic pressures to convert our forested hillsides to agriculture.
But in an era of deforestation and climate collapse, we must be finding ways to save our remaining forests instead of planning for their destruction.
Where the county has identified many significant sources of GHG emissions and proposes measures to counter them, it does not in most cases provide specific, mandatory and enforceable policies necessary to adequately fulfill its legal responsibilities under state law. Throughout the CAP, we read of vague steps that “evaluate” or “consider” or “promote” certain systems or programs in enacting measures. The county needs to take steps to require and enforce the changes we need to achieve carbon pollution reductions by the required drop dead dates.
Napa County is renowned for its quality wines and sustainable farming practices. It has a powerful global voice for meaningful climate protections. With our new state laws and with up-to-date climate stabilization accounting methods available to us, we can choose projects and technologies that are available now, scalable, and effective at reducing radiative forcing. Tell your elected officials that it’s time to act on real climate protections. Our children are depending on us.