Answers to questions that lead us to conclude the San Francisco Bay Area can and should take strong regional action to do our part to help the world limit atmospheric carbon dioxide (the most important and long-lived greenhouse gas) to 350 parts per million. This means pushing for local measures stronger than California and federal requirements.
Climate change is a global issue, why focus on the Bay Area?
Bay Area GHG emissions are equivalent to those of a medium-sized country. Our actions matter. As measured in 2007, the magnitude of the Bay Area's GHG emissions ranked equivalent to 50th out of 186 nations, higher than those of Portugal, Israel, Ireland, Sweden and Denmark. On a per capita basis, in 2007 the Bay Area's emissions ranked 24th out of 186 nations, higher than those of Finland, Germany, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Spain and Italy. For the world to meet a CO2 atmospheric concentration of 350, all nations must act, both working together and independently.
Neither the United States nor California is stepping up to the level of effort required. Since our GHG emissions are equivalent to those of a moderate sized nation, we arguably have a duty to take additional measures to the extent we have authority.
Would Bay Area independent action make any difference?
Yes. The world needs leadership from all players to pull back on global warming. Any effective leadership the Bay Area can provide will be noticed, and likely replicated, by others.
The deep GHG emission reductions needed to get to 350 ppm will be very expensive to achieve. Isn't this too much to ask of the Bay Area?
Reality check: The Bay Area is one of the wealthiest areas of the world. In 2007, our per capita Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP) was equivalent to the world's 3rd highest GDP per person. Our overall GMP ranked equivalent to that of the 27th richest nation out of 186. If the Bay Area can't afford to direct a sufficient portion of this productive wealth toward doing our share to protect the earth's atmosphere, what nation can?
Isn't this the responsibility of the federal and State governments? What authority does the Bay Area have to act?
State and federal laws require that local regulations must be at least as stringent as U.S and/or California requirements. However, there is also explicit authority for local regulators to establish more stringent requirements than State or federal statutes and regulations. In California, local air districts have primary authority to regulate air pollutants from almost all activities except tailpipe emissions from vehicular sources. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that greenhouse gases including CO2 are considered air pollutants, local air districts have the authority to take significant independent action. Our local air agency, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has this authority. We should ask that they do so.
Check out the Bay Area Management District's Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory (published in 2010, emissions from 2007) for more detail on regional carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions.
Also see the June 1, 2005 Air District Board Resolution establishing its Climate Protection program. (ashx/pdf file) This Resolution is fairly weak and out of date compared to more recent Climate Resolutions passed by many Bay Area cities. See 350 Bay Area's Bay Climate Action Plan Campaign aimed at persuading the Air District to step it up and strengthen its Climate Protection Program.