‘Green Innovation’ Study Shows California CO2 Policies Mainly Help China

‘Green Innovation’ Study Shows California CO2 Policies Mainly Help China

This file photo shows smoke belching from a coal-fueled power station near Datong, in China's northern Shanxi Province on Nov. 19, 2015. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 3/25/2024

It’s not often when a study refutes itself. But look at the below chart from the recently released 15th annual California Green Innovation Index, by Next 10, a liberal think tank, and Beacon Economics. It’s under the category International Scorecards and measures millions of metric tons of CO2 equivalent, abbreviated as MMTCO2e.
(Next 10 California Green Innovation Index)

(Next 10 California Green Innovation Index)

As do California politicians, such as Gov. Gavin Newsom, it shows California as if it were a separate country. But let’s add up the total MMTCO2e for all 50 Polluters—48 countries, the 27 member states of the the European Union, and California. For some reason the study didn’t do that. (Note: I have subtracted California from the U.S. number, which for the 49 remaining states comes to: 4,276.5 MMTCO2e).
The 50 Top Polluters’ total then comes to: 34,178.4 MMTCO2e. This is important because now we easily can make some calculations:
  • Of the 34,178.4 MMTCO2e total, California’s comes to 303.4, or just 0.89 percent. Even if that 303.4 Golden State MMTCO2e were eliminated entirely, it wouldn’t reduce global carbon emissions by even 1 percent.
  • Of Communist China’s world-leading total of 10,841.5 MMTCO2e, California’s 303.4 is just 2.8 percent. Again, if California’s 303.4 MMTCO2e were whooshed away entirely, that would pale compared to the PRC’s world-leading total.

Carping About California

The above data, for consistency, are for 2020, the COVID-19 year when the state, national and global economies were locked down for much of the year. The index takes that into account. But instead of pointing out the Golden State’s paltry contribution to global CO2, its main focus carps about the state’s failure to meet unrealistic CO2 reduction goals:
“The report finds total greenhouse gas emissions rebounded between 2020 and 2021, jumping by 3.4 percent to 381.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2021. This increase followed an 8.8 percent drop in emissions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ...
“To meet the 2030 target of nearly 260 MMTCO2e, California would need to triple the rate at which it has been cutting emissions since 2010—going from the actual average annual reduction of about 1.5 percent a year to about 4.4 percent a year.”
The California hoped-for drop from 303.4 MMTCO2e in 2020 to 260 MMTCO2e in 2030 would be a reduction of just 43.4 MMTCO2e. Again using the 2020 global number of 34,178.4 MMTCO2e, California’s reduction of 43.4 MMTCO2e would be just 0.13 percent of the total. Worse, by 2030 the global total certainly will be much larger than 34,178.4 MMTCO2e.
The index enthuses: “Within the transportation sector, new light-duty electric vehicle sales in all classes rose by 61.7 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year and California met the 2025 goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on-road two years early in April 2023.”
And: “Growth in the amount of renewable energy being generated in California has slowed considerably since 2018—it increased by only 2.2 percent in absolute terms (6.6% in relative terms) to 35.8 percent of California’s total power mix (imports and in-state, but excluding large hydro) from 2021 to 2022. To meet the 2026 goal of 50 percent of generation from RPS-eligible renewable sources, California’s share of electricity generation from renewables would need to increase by 8.7 percent each year from 2022 to 2026, revised upward from 8.3 percent previously.”
But compared to what’s going on globally, that’s just a jumble of numbers with no relevance whatsoever to the reality outside California.

AB 32 Farce

Here’s what really matters: The state’s MMTCO2e reduction policy was set forth 18 years ago in Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, signed into law with great fanfare by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It guaranteed, “The program established by this division will continue this tradition of environmental leadership by placing California at the forefront of national and international efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases ... action taken by California to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases will have far-reaching effects by encouraging other states, the federal government, and other countries to act.”
As the chart above shows, that just isn’t happening. The whole developing world wants the prosperity America has—and that means burning fossil fuels to get it.
All AB 32 and subsequent legislation, such as Senate Bill 375, have done is increase the cost of everything in California, especially housing, as I detailed in these pages in, “The Media Is Helping Schwarzenegger Rewrite His Governorship.”
Then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is joined by international environmental and industry leaders at a bill signing for AB 32 on Treasure Island in San Francisco on Sept. 27, 2006. (John Decker/Office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is joined by international environmental and industry leaders at a bill signing for AB 32 on Treasure Island in San Francisco on Sept. 27, 2006. (John Decker/Office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Enthused Next 10’s Noel Perry in his Founder’s Letter at the beginning of the index: “We can show the world that we can reduce our emissions through a combination of being at the forefront of EV sales, new charging stations, new renewable energy, electrification of buildings and transportation, and clean tech innovation.” But to turn a 1960s protester phrase, the whole world is not watching California.

China Is a ‘Developing’ Polluter?

The California Green Innovation Index also does not take into account another new study, this one from the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute. It’s by Ben Lieberman and came out on March 13 and is titled, “Forcing the UN’s Hand on China: Ending the CCP’s preferential treatment on environmental treaties.”
It found, “Most United Nations (UN) environmental treaties are a bad deal for America that are made worse by classifying China as a developing nation and thus handing it relatively lenient treatment. Doing so gives China a competitive advantage over the US and other developed nation signatories that must contend with more challenging treaty obligations. ...
“China is now the world’s second largest economy and largest exporter. The idea of holding it to the same standards as the US and other developed nations has rapidly gained popularity in Congress. Since the Kigali Amendment vote, legislation extending the China reclassification provisions to all treaties was enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (NDAA). Most significantly, this would include the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“Such legislation is a welcome first step, but merely asking the UN to change China’s status is insufficient. Congress also needs to make sure that there are concrete consequences under these treaties until the change is made.” The study provides numerous details on what’s going on, and what exactly to do.
Daren Bakst, the director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, told me, “China is certainly not a developing country. They are the world’s second largest economy and the largest exporter. California has the highest effective poverty rate in the country and accounts for 28% of the nation’s homeless population. Poverty and homelessness make people more vulnerable to all hazards, including climate related hazards.
“As I have written, ‘Countries reducing their wealth and prosperity isn’t going to help their citizens or put the world in a better position to address any environmental concerns. After all, the wealthiest nations have the best environmental records and their citizens have the means and ability to innovate and develop real solutions to genuine problems.’
“While California is not a country, the same principles apply. The good news is that having policies to improve the well-being of citizens today is the best way to improve the lives of future generations.”

CO2 Obsession Only Helps Communist China

So, even as Communist China is given every reason to continue polluting, California is unreasonably harming its own industries and people.
California’s actions hurt us in two ways. First by crippling our industries so they can’t compete, helping Chinese companies. Second by driving our own companies out of California, with its much lower CO2 levels, to other states and countries where limitations are less strict.
Nobody wants to go back the 1960s-era smog that hung over the Los Angeles and choked everyone, as shown in “Dragnet” and other TV shows of that era. But at some point the returns from reducing CO2 diminish so much they become negligible.
Indeed, excessive anti-CO2 actions even can turn negative, especially when they encourage businesses to flee Chino to China and set up shop with fewer pollution controls of all types.
No man is an island, wrote poet John Donne. Neither is California.
John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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