An annual report on California’s progress decarbonizing its economy is out today and, as usual, the news is largely good. The United States’s most populous state and the world’s eighth-largest economy has made huge investments in energy efficiency, green building and alternative sources of electricity and transportation. It’s paying off. And while the Flat Earth Society continues to dominate the climate-change debate in Washington, the West Coast political and business establishment is largely unified in facing an increasingly grim reality head-on.
One of the best indicators of success in decarbonizing an economy is the volume of greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of gross domestic product. In California, the carbon intensity of the state economy fell 30 percent between 1997 and 2011, according to the report from Next 10, a non-partisan research institute based in San Francisco.
Emissions per capita dropped 14 percent during that time even as the population continued to grow. And decarbonizing the California economy apparently has not cost its citizens, as per capita GDP has grown 16 percent since 1990 and 2.2 percent since 2011. (There was a slight increase in carbon emissions in 2012, which the report attributes to the closing of one of California’s two in-state nuclear power plants as well as drop in electricity production from hydropower due to the devastating drought.)