California Population Tsunami Overwhelms State’s Climate Goal

By Leon Kolankiewicz
November 8, 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 that looked at all sectors of the California economy known to emit greenhouse gases, including water, waste, electricity generation, light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, fuels and buildings. While the state is on course to meet state-mandated targets that call for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, it won’t meet 2050 targets “without bold new technologies and policies,” according to the press release for the study.

The research shows emissions will start rebounding after 2030 due to population growth, one of the two main drivers for the expected increase in greenhouse gas emissions (the other is gross state product). Now at 38 million, California’s population is expected to top 50 million by 2050, pushing up the demand for energy, resulting in the state missing its goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050.

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.”

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.” A leader in the population sustainability movement, Californians for Population Stabilization 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 CAPS was blaming immigrants and immigrants alone for global warming. His adoring audience guffawed.

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


Leon Kolankiewicz is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a wildlife biologist, environmental scientist and planner and can be reached at