Climate Change


climate_change.jpg Cumulative greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions are believed to contribute to an increased greenhouse effect and global climate change, which may result in sea level rise, changes in precipitation, habitat, temperature, wildfires, air pollution levels and changes in the frequency and intensity of weather-related-events.  While criteria pollutants and toxic air contaminants are pollutants of regional and local concern; GHG are global pollutants.  The primary land-use related GHG are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxides (N2O).  The individual pollutant’s ability to retain infrared radiation represents its “global warming potential” and is expressed in terms of CO2 equivalents; therefore CO2 is the benchmark having a global warming potential of 1.  Methane has a global warming potential of 21 and thus has a 21 times greater global warming effect per metric ton of CHthan CO2. Nitrous Oxide has a global warming potential of 310. Emissions are expressed in annual metric tons of CO2 equivalent units of measure (i.e., MTCO2e/yr).  The three other main GHG are Hydroflourocarbons, Perflourocarbons, and Sulfur Hexaflouride.  While these compounds have significantly higher global warming potentials (ranging in the thousands), all three typically are not a concern in land-use development projects and are usually only used in specific industrial processes.

 GHG Sources

The primary man-made source of CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels; the two largest sources being coal burning to produce electricity and petroleum burning in combustion engines.  The primary sources of man-made CH4 are natural gas systems losses (during production, processing, storage, transmission and distribution), enteric fermentation (digestion from livestock) and landfill off-gassing.  The primary source of man-made N2O is agricultural soil management (fertilizers), with fossil fuel combustion a very distant second.  In El Dorado County, the primary source of GHG is fossil fuel combustion mainly in the transportation sector (estimated at 70% of countywide GHG emissions).  A distant second are residential sources (approximately 20%), and commercial/industrial sources are third (approximately 7%).  The remaining sources are waste/landfill (approximately 3%) and agricultural (<1%).  

 GHG Regulation

In September 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the California Climate Solutions Act of 2006 (Stats. 2006, ch. 488) (Health & Safety Code, § 38500 et seq.). AB 32 requires a statewide GHG emissions reduction to 1990 levels by the year 2020. AB 32 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to implement and enforce the statewide cap.  When AB 32 was signed, California’s annual GHG emissions were estimated at 600 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MMTCO2e) while 1990 levels were estimated at 427 MMTCO2e. Setting 427 MMTCO2e as the emissions target for 2020, current (2006) GHG emissions levels must be reduced by 29%. CARB adopted the AB 32 Scoping Plan  in December 2008 establishing various actions the state would implement to achieve this reduction.  The Scoping Plan recommends a community-wide GHG reduction goal for local governments of 15%.  The Scoping Plan was updated in June 2014, and using new information on the global warming potential of GHG’s, raised the 2020 emissions target slightly to 431 MMTCO2e.

Senate Bill (SB) 97, enacted in 2007, amended the CEQA statute to establish that GHG emissions and their effects are a prominent environmental issue that requires analysis and identification of feasible mitigation under CEQA. GHG was included in the CEQA Guidelines on March 18, 2010.

In June 2008, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research’s (OPR) issued a Technical Advisory  providing interim guidance regarding a proposed project’s GHG emissions and contribution to global climate change. In the absence of adopted local or statewide thresholds, OPR recommends the following approach for analyzing GHG emissions:  Identify and quantify the project’s GHG emissions, assess the significance of the impact on climate change; and if the impact is found to be significant, identify alternatives and/or Mitigation Measures that would reduce the impact to less-than-significant levels.   

Senate Bill (SB) 375, signed in September 2008, aligns regional transportation planning efforts, regional GHG reduction targets, and land use and housing allocations. SB 375 requires Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to adopt a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) or Alternative Planning Strategy (APS), which will prescribe land use allocations in that MPO’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). On April 19, 2012, SACOG adopted its 2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan and associated SCS to meet the requirements of SB 375.



Image of World GlobeLocal, State, National and International Efforts

Climate Change is a national and international issue, and efforts are being taken and actions implemented on many fronts. The list below shows some of the activities underway.

El Dorado County

On March 25, 2008, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors adopted the “Environmental Vision for El Dorado County” Resolution No. 29-2008, brought forward by the Youth Commission. The Resolution sets forth goals and calls for implementation of positive environmental changes to reduce global impact, improve air quality and reduce dependence on landfills, promote alternative energies, increase recycling, and encourage local governments to adopt green and sustainable practices.

Sacramento Area

Climate Change Strategy Group: Charter members included the air districts of Sacramento Area, SMUD, California Air Resources Board (CARB), Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), City of Sacramento, and County of Sacramento. The purpose of the group is to begin a dialogue regarding what we can do to educate the public and implement specific GHG-reducing measures. 

 SACOG Climate Change & Air Quality Committee. SACOG's involvement in the more traditional air quality issues of ozone and particulate matter has been a key work project for many years, therefore the issue of climate change is a timely one for SACOG. The Committee shall develop recommendations for the full SACOG Board of Directors relative to air quality, energy conservation, climate change and related issues.

State of California

  •  Climate Action Team To meet the state's greenhouse gas reduction targets, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger directed the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to coordinate with the Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency; Secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture; Secretary of the Resources Agency; Chairperson of the Air Resources Board; Chairperson of the Energy Commission; and President of the Public Utilities Commission. The Secretary of CalEPA leads a Climate Action Team made up of representatives from the agencies listed above to implement global warming emission reduction programs and report on the progress made toward meeting the statewide greenhouse gas targets that were established in the executive order. 
  • CARB Climate Change Program summarizes efforts by CARB aimed at reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 - a reduction of about 25 percent, and then an 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. The main strategies for making these reductions are outlined in the Scoping Plan .
  • California Air Pollution Control Officers Association, which represents all 35 local air district agencies, recently published a white paper and a resource guide titled CEQA & Climate Change to support local governments as they develop programs and policies around climate change issues. 
  • California Climate Change Registry (CCAR) helps companies and organizations in California to establish GHG emissions baselines against which any future GHG emission reduction requirements may be applied.

National Efforts, Other States, and Organizations


 What You Can Do

You can make an important personal choice to reduce your GHG emissions. The Union of Concerned Scientists lists ten smart choices:

  • Use the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can.
  • Choose clean power.
  • Purchase Energy Star appliances.
  • Unplug an unused or limited use freezer.
  • Get a home energy audit.
  • Use energy-saving light bulbs
  • Don't drive alone - carpool, walk, or take the bus!
  • Buy wood from sustainable forests.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Let policymakers know you are concerned about Climate Change.

You can calculate what is known as your "Carbon Footprint". This is the amount of GHG you produce in units of CO2. Once you have calculated your Carbon Footprint you can take steps to reduce it and/or offset it. Web sites that offer calculation tools and more suggestions for reducing and offsetting include the following:


Thank you for working with us to improve air quality!