Evaluating climate change mitigation efforts in California and how to secure significant and equitable co-benefits




Detelich, Madeline Elaine

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Limiting global warming to 1.5°C, or even 2°C, will require a sharp reduction in fossil fuel use over the next decade. A rich body of research quantifies the human health benefits from the improved air quality that will result in reducing fossil fuel combustion and makes the case for rapid, aggressive pathways to net-zero emissions. California has been a global leader in environmental protection and climate change mitigation, implementing a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions in 2013. Given the disproportionate burden of air pollution exposure that many minority and low-income communities already experience, environmental justice advocates fear that a market-driven system like cap-and-trade could increase pollution disparities. Multiple studies have established that higher rates of Black and Hispanic or Disadvantaged Communities live near cap-and-trade-regulated facilities (Boyce et al. 2013, Anderson et al. 2018, Cushing et al. 2018). Using an environmental justice exposure tool developed by Chambliss et al, intake fractions are linked to cap-and-trade facility information from the database created by Cushing et al. These intake fractions for total population and Disadvantaged Communities show how communities are exposed to air pollution from these facilities, which sectors are disproportionately responsible, and the impact on Disadvantaged Communities. These studies do not show whether or not pollution has been concentrated in environmental justice communities, but they do show how it could happen. Considering the difficulty California regulators have had in implementing suggestions from its Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and the role of the industry responsible for the majority of PM₂.₅ exposure and large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from cap-and-trade facilities, oil and gas, in legislating climate change mitigation in California, researchers and activists should keep carefully studying this program.


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