California Population Tsunami Overwhelms Its Climate Goal

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By Leon Kolankiewicz

Leon is an Advisory Board Member and Senior Writing Fellow with CAPS. A wildlife biologist, and environmental scientist and planner, Leon is the author of Where Salmon Come to Die: An Autumn on Alaska's Raincoast, the essay “Overpopulation versus Biodiversity” in Environment and Society: A Reader and was a contributing writer to Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation.

In a career that spans three decades, three countries and more than 30 states, Leon has managed environmental impact statements for many federal agencies on projects ranging from dams and reservoirs to coal-fired power plants, power lines, flood control projects, road expansions, management of Civil War battlefields, NASA's Kennedy Space Center operations and a proposed uranium mine on a national forest. He also has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop comprehensive conservation plans at more than 40 national wildlife refuges from the Caribbean to Alaska.

The writer's views are his own.

November 13, 2013

This should come as no surprise to anyone with half a brain or the rudimentary mathematical ability it takes to add 2 + 2 and get 4: California’s incessant immigration-fueled population growth will preclude the state from reaching its much-ballyhooed greenhouse gas emission target for the year 2050.

So says a study released on November 4 by the respected Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The state's many programs to boost renewable power, encourage alternative fuels and improve energy efficiency should lead to a substantial drop in greenhouse gas emissions through 2030, the study found. The cuts should easily beat the emissions target set in California's landmark global warming law, AB32, which was passed in 2006 and calls for reducing emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

But the study found that emissions will start to rebound after 2030, largely because of population growth. California's population, now 38 million, is expected to top 50 million by 2050, pushing up the demand for electricity and fuel.

As a result, California will badly miss its target of slashing emissions 80 percent by 2050, according to the study.

AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was a collaboration of the Democrat-controlled California Assembly and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. To symbolize his commitment to fighting climate change, the self-styled “green governor” even got rid of six of his seven gas-guzzling Hummers – an act of noble self-abnegation for which he still receives kudos even today from the followers of feel-good “environmentalism-lite.”

One thing neither the progressive Democratic legislators nor the Republican governor was willing to do in AB32 was address the carbon emissions elephant in the room: rapid, unceasing population growth caused almost entirely by immigration and births to immigrants. Rather than take “the road less traveled” and forthrightly face up to demographic reality, they took the easy way out – “the road more traveled” as it were – opting for political correctness over environmental correctness.

But you can’t game arithmetic. You can’t pretend 2 + 2 = 3 and get away with it, even if you’re basking in the glow of praise from the gutless, badly compromised Environmental Establishment.

Environmental Impact equals Population x Affluence x Technology (I=PAT). In crafting their approach to climate change, California politicians chose to focus only on Technology, ignoring Population altogether. And now we have confirmation from a nonpartisan scientific source that population growth will indeed sabotage climate goals. It was all so predictable that it would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.

Trying to reach emissions reduction targets without halting population growth is like trying to lose weight while eating more and more. Or a football team trying to score a touchdown on a field where the goal line is constantly receding. Doesn’t happen, except maybe in “fantasy football.”

This blogger is also an environmental researcher. In a 2008 study, Stephen Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies and I concluded that immigration-driven population growth would cancel out efforts to reduce national aggregate carbon emissions.

We also found that, on average, “immigrants in the United States produce an estimated four times more CO2 in the United States as they would have in their countries of origin.” CAPS used these findings in a 2012 TV ad that was subsequently lampooned by comedian Stephen Colbert. In his bombastic and buffoonish character, Colbert twisted the study and ad to insinuate that yours truly and CAPS were blaming immigrants and immigrants alone for global warming. And his adoring audience guffawed.

May I suggest the next target for Colbert’s inane ridicule: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Hummer H2

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