Another Environmental Epic Fail

As everyone who follows the dreary world of environmental politics knows, the great concern these days is with “environmental justice,” which is exactly what you think it is—an attempted fusing of the Edmund Pettis Bridge with the Cuyahoga River fire. So it is with a great deal of amusement that I see a new report from USC, UC Berkeley and Occidental College casts doubt on the effectiveness of California’s cap and trade program that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, summarized at the Energy Collective, concludes that the whole thing is backfiring on every level, including the all important “equity” for people of color:

“The [cap-and-trade] system is not delivering local emission reductions, public health, or air quality benefits to residents in low-income communities and communities of color,” said Amy Vanderwarker, co-director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, in a press conference.

While overall greenhouse gas emissions in California have dropped from their peak in 2001, many industry sectors covered under cap-and-trade have actually increased localized in-state greenhouse gas emissions since the program came into effect in 2013. Those increases are concentrated in neighborhoods with higher proportions of disadvantaged residents. . .

And what of the “offsets” that were supposed to compensate for continued polluting? The report found that those offsets were primarily linked to projects — such as tree-planting efforts — outside California. “We are basically exporting climate benefits to other states,” said Vanderwarker.

offsets-copyTurns out the only reductions accomplished so far have come from buying more power from out of state, and the “offsets” consist mostly of planting trees in other states. (See Figure 9 from the report below.) So, great—California not only exporting middle class people; it’s just shipping money to other states, gratis. We’re especially generous to Arkansas for some reason, as Figure 7 from the report nearby shows. Guess those southern hicks aren’t so dumb after all.

Unexpectedly!, as Glenn Reynolds would say.