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County of Sonoma to take inventory of greenhouse gas emissions for all county operations

Press Release, COUNTY OF SONOMA

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today authorized the creation of an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions from all county government facilities and operations. The inventory will be used as a baseline to help the county move toward its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, as outlined in the county’s Five-Year Strategic Plan for Climate Action and Resiliency.

Following a competitive bid process, the board today approved the selection of Oakland-based Cascadia Consulting Group, Inc. to perform the greenhouse gas audit with a contract amount of $142,330.

“This board has made the climate crisis a top priority by joining cities, counties, and countries around the world in declaring a climate emergency and making a $10 million commitment to action on adaptation and resiliency strategies,” said James Gore, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “We are already making progress on carbon accounting of internal operations, but we have ambitious goals and more work to do. A baseline understanding of our current impact is essential to meeting the 2030 targets with accuracy and efficiency.”

The Board of Supervisors previously allocated $500,000 as part of Strategic Plan funding to conduct both an internal municipal greenhouse gas emissions inventory and a study evaluating the potential of carbon sequestration. The carbon sequestration study will be pursued at a later date.

Cascadia Consulting Group, Inc. works with public, corporate, nonprofit, and tribal clients on strategic planning, analysis, and management of projects focused on climate change mitigation and resilience, energy efficiency and renewable energy, recycling and materials management, and resource conservation.

Under the terms of the contract, Cascadia will prepare the emissions inventory using the Local Government Operations Protocol for the Quantification and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories, which is based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, considered the world’s most widely used corporate accounting and reporting standard for greenhouse gas emissions.
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Climate controversy: California’s plan for handling crisis is flawed, advisors say

Nadia Lopez, CALMATTERS

California’s climate change plan fails to provide substantial evidence that capturing carbon will meet ambitious greenhouse gas goals, critics say. The plan “does California a disservice,” one state advisor said.

As California races to prevent the irreversible effects of climate change, some experts are questioning key policies that the state is counting on to meet its ambitious goals and accusing state officials of failing to provide substantial details to back up its claims.

The California Air Resources Board’s proposal, called a scoping plan, outlines policies that would transition the economy away from fossil fuels. The purpose of the plan is to fulfill state mandates to reduce planet-warming emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

In this year’s highly-anticipated climate policy blueprint, some critics say the state agency has not been transparent on how it plans to achieve its goals. The process has left legislators and others at the forefront of the climate discussion confused over the air board staff’s projections.

“The draft scoping plan does California a disservice,” said Danny Cullenward, an economist and vice chair of the Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee, a group of five experts appointed by the governor and top legislators to assess the effectiveness of the state’s landmark cap and trade program. “It focuses on long-term goals at the expense of near-term action.”

At two recent state committee meetings, environmentalists, academics and climate policy experts who serve on state advisory panels voiced concerns over California’s approach to tackling the climate crisis. They called the plan incomplete, ambiguous and confusing.

Read more at https://calmatters.org/environment/2022/06/california-climate-change-plan-flawed/?utm_id=57747&sfmc_id=3422102

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Op Ed: California can do better than carbon neutrality by 2045

Daniel Kammen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ten years ago, many Californians could not have imagined the climate nightmare we are living today — dark orange skies during wildfire season, heat waves in the dead of winter, mandatory water restrictions amid crippling drought.

Without urgent action, we may well look back on this moment as the calm before the storm. Over the course of the next decade, California’s biggest climate challenges — hotter summers, a shorter rainy season and more destructive wildfires — could double in intensity.

It’s against this backdrop that the California Air Resources Board last week released a draft of our state’s scoping plan, a blueprint for combating climate change that will guide California’s policy for years. Despite the stakes for Californians, and although my research indicates the state could actually become carbon negative by 2030, the draft proposal would delay reaching carbon neutral until 2045. The barriers to a target of 2030 are political, not technical.

The draft plan calls for investment in new fossil fuel electricity resources, and it relies on unproven and costly carbon capture technologies that would lock in fossil fuel pollution. Adopting this approach would be lazy, nonsensical and racially unjust. During the current 45-day period for public review of the plan, California has the chance to choose a smarter path.

Renewable energy, even when coupled with energy storage, is cheaper than fossil fuels. California’s own state laws say that renewable energy must be prioritized before building out expensive and polluting gas power plants. Instead, California must set ambitious targets that immediately cut pollution through no-regrets strategies.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/kammen-california-can-do-better-than-carbon-neutrality-by-2045/

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New gas station bans working their way through Sonoma County communities

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Maybe 138 gas stations in Sonoma County is enough for now. Or really, forever.

That’s the thinking behind a wave of new ordinances making their way through local governments around the region that would prohibit permit applications for new petroleum fueling stations or expansions.

While it may be years yet before electric vehicles dominate the roadways, elected officials think planning ahead for a successful transition away from planet-fouling, gas-powered cars makes sense. And that includes putting a stop to any more fuel pumps in the county.

The Rohnert Park City Council took the first vote on its new ordinance Tuesday and is expected to adopt a citywide ban on new gas pumps at its March 22 meeting. The Sebastopol council will take up the matter April 5, when it considers a draft ordinance already approved by the planning commission. And Santa Rosa City Council’s climate action subcommittee has sent a recommended ban to its planning commission which, if OK’d there, would move onto the City Council later this year.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/new-gas-station-bans-working-their-way-through-sonoma-county-communities/

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Op-Ed: If you care about freedom, shut up about high gas prices – and put a solar panel on your roof

Bill McKibben, THE CRUCIAL YEARS

We’ve had an immense amount of nonsense in the last year or two about what constitutes freedom—mostly, it appears, freedom is the right to give others covid so that you’re not burdened with the unbearable sacrifice of wearing a square of cloth across your mouth.

But as of Wednesday night, the idea of freedom got a little more real. People in Ukraine are suddenly being killed for daring to want to choose their own leaders. And people in Russia—many thousands—are bravely taking to the streets to support that choice. Those are all extremely brave people, and they deserve our deep gratitude and admiration. And we should do what we can to help them.

We’re not being asked to do much. President Biden took the prospect that we might stand militarily with Ukraine off the table early—that was probably wise, since there’s clearly not an appetite in America for helping in that way, and since actual fighting with a nuclear-armed foe run by a dead-eyed zealot is no easy thing. In fact, Biden seems to me to be doing a very steady job in the deepest crisis since 9/11—our impulsive and rash reaction then led us down a terrible path of stupid wars. This time he’s corralling allies, drawing up sanctions, doing what he can to hold together a democratic world order against autocrats abroad (and Fox News at home).

Read more at https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/if-you-care-about-freedom-shut-up?s=r

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California subsidies for dairy cows’ biogas are a lose-lose, campaigners say

Michael Sainato, THE GUARDIAN

The state pumps millions into methane produced by manure – but advocates argue it increases greenhouse gas emissions and encourages factory farming

A coalition of climate, environmental and animal welfare groups is calling for California to remove the huge subsidies provided to dairy farms to turn animal waste into a form of energy called biogas.

Manure, which emits the potent greenhouse gas methane, is a big problem for US farms, and is particularly stark in California, where the dairy industry accounts for nearly half the state’s methane emissions.

Since 2011, California has been running a policy called the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which now includes incentives for dairy farms to convert methane into energy to fuel vehicles by enabling them to sell offset credits. This is intended to be a win-win: reducing farm emissions while allowing fossil fuel companies to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions by buying these offsets. The number of anaerobic digesters used to produce the biogas has surged in the state especially among large dairy farms.

But environmental advocates argue that the environmental benefits of biogas are exaggerated, and that the LCFS encourages the expansion of factory farms and could end up increasing emissions and pollution.

In a petition to the California Air Resources Board (Carb), the state government’s clean air agency that runs the LCFS, six environmental groups called for dairy farms to be excluded from the policy. In January, Carb turned down the request but said it would continue to engage with the petitioners.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/04/california-subsidies-biogas-dairy-cows-emissions-climate

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Greta Thunberg on the state of the climate movement

KK Ottesen, WASHINGTON POST

Since there are no binding agreements that safely put us towards a safe future for life on Earth as we know it, that means that we have to use morals, and we have to be able to feel empathy with one another. That is all we have right now.

Student and climate activist Greta Thunberg, 18, burst improbably onto the world stage in late 2018 when what began as a one-person school strike outside the Swedish parliament ended up galvanizing a global climate movement to demand immediate action to prevent environmental catastrophe.

Thunberg’s school strike spread in Sweden and around the world, inspiring a youth-led global climate strike movement, Fridays for Future, which urged cuts in carbon emissions. Her speeches at major political gatherings, including the World Economic Forum, the British Parliament, the U.S. Congress and, most recently, the United Nations climate summit known as COP26, have castigated leaders for failing future generations with their “fairy tales of eternal economic growth.” Or, as she said in one speech, “How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

Thunberg credits her Asperger’s syndrome, which is considered part of the autism spectrum, for her truth-telling and focus as a climate activist. She lives in Stockholm.

You called COP26 a “failure” and a “PR event.”

Well, in the final document, they succeeded in even watering down the blah, blah, blah. Which is very much an achievement, if you see it that way. Of course it’s a step forward that, instead of coming back every five years, they’re doing it every year now. But still, that doesn’t mean anything unless that actually leads to increased ambition and if they actually fulfill those ambitions.

What do you mean when you say, “watering down the blah, blah, blah”?

As we all know, or as we might know, the so-called “f-word” was included for the first time in this document: fossil fuel. Which makes you wonder what they have been doing these decades without even mentioning fossil fuels for a problem which, to a very, very large extent, is caused by fossil fuels. And instead of “phasing out” [coal, the document’s language became] “phasing down.” So, yeah, that is one very clear example.

And also, one question that was very up in the air was the question about finance for loss and damage and the Green Climate Fund, which they again failed to agree on. The money that has already been promised, the bare minimum that the so-called global north have promised that they will deliver, they failed to come to any conclusions, and it’s been postponed once again.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2021/12/27/greta-thunberg-state-climate-movement-roots-her-power-an-activist/

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Straus Family Creamery puts Sonoma County dairy cows on seaweed diet to test method to fight climate change

Susan Wood, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Straus Family Creamery is widely known for all things food, but red seaweed isn’t one of them — until now.

This summer, ecologist-at-heart Albert Straus, who is a pioneer in organic farming, signed up his 24 cows on his Petaluma farm to help determine if feeding them red seaweed would reduce their methane emissions, mostly from belching. He mixed the ocean plant into their feed, like humans would add green onions to their scrambled eggs,

And over a 50-day trial in which the cows were tested four times a day, methane releases dropped by 52%. In some circumstances, the experiment showed the methane was cut by as much as 90%. Straus, who produces an assortment of mass-produced dairy products, believes a second trial planned in January will produce more consistent results.

“We know we can do better than that,” he told the Business Journal, referencing the lower percentage of reduction.

So far in the first trial, the equivalent of five metric tons of harmful greenhouse gases, blamed in causing the planet to heat up, was cut.

As part of a state climate initiative, California’s 2030 mandate requires a reduction of methane by 40%. It has been determined that cow burps are responsible for 35% of total U.S. on-farm greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/north-bay/straus-family-creamery-puts-sonoma-county-dairy-cows-on-seaweed-diet-to-tes/

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Windsor exploring ban on new gas stations, gas infrastructure

Brandon McCapes, SOCONEWS

The Town of Windsor will soon join the City of Petaluma in banning new gas station infrastructure, following a recommendation by the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA).

At their Nov. 3 meeting, the town council voted unanimously to direct planning staff to explore a ban, which would not affect current gas stations, but only prevent the establishment of fueling stations providing fossil fuels, or adding to the number of fuel pumps at existing stations.

Kim Voge, a planner from the community development department, said that, following Petaluma’s ban in March of this year, the RCPA has been recommending all jurisdictions in Sonoma County follow suit.

The Town of Windsor declared a climate emergency in September 2019, and the general plan includes policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieve net zero emissions.

Currently, Windsor allows gas stations in three zoning districts (community commercial, service commercial and gateway commercial), requiring a use permit; the ban would be implemented by removing gas stations from the zoning ordinance, making all gas stations “non-conforming.”

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Op-Ed: For Uber and Lyft, the rideshare bubble bursts

Greg Bensiger, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Piece by piece, the mythology around ridesharing is falling apart. Uber and Lyft promised ubiquitous self-driving cars as soon as this year. They promised an end to private car ownership. They promised to reduce congestion in the largest cities. They promised consistently affordable rides. They promised to boost public transit use. They promised profitable business models. They promised a surfeit of well-paying jobs. Heck, they even promised flying cars.

Well, none of that has gone as promised (but more about that later). Now a new study is punching a hole in another of Uber and Lyft’s promised benefits: curtailing pollution. The companies have long insisted their services are a boon to the environment in part because they reduce the need for short trips, can pool riders heading in roughly the same direction and cut unnecessary miles by, for instance, eliminating the need to look for street parking.

It turns out that Uber rides do spare the air from the high amount of pollutants emitted from starting up a cold vehicle, when it is operating less efficiently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found. But that gain is wiped out by the need for drivers to circle around waiting for or fetching their next passenger, known as deadheading. Deadheading, Lyft and Uber estimated in 2019, is equal to about 40 percent of rideshare miles driven in six American cities. The researchers at Carnegie Mellon estimated that driving without a passenger leads to a roughly 20 percent overall increase in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions compared to trips made by personal vehicles.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/17/opinion/uber-lyft.html