Short-lived climate pollutants, super pollutants, climate forcers—whichever you want to call them—seem to have gotten lost in the quest to curb climate change by reducing CO2. But unless we reduce these super pollutants we will not be able to avoid the frightening increases in temperatures that are being experiencing around the world. (The ports of LA and Long Beach, below, are a major source of super pollutants.)
Super pollutants are probably the most under-appreciated and dangerous contributors to climate change, perhaps because they lose their warming power quickly: CO2 causes increased temperatures for 50-100 years, with 20% remaining in the atmosphere for thousands of years, while short-lived climate pollutants do their damage over much shorter periods and then disappear.
Black carbon's lifetime in the atmosphere is days or weeks in length; methane lasts up to 12 years; HFCs, or hydrofluorcarbons, last 15 years on average. But the problem is that we keep on replacing them with new emissions—from landfills, wastewater treatment, dairies and livestock, diesel-powered vehicles and wildfires—and their global warming potential is far greater than that of CO2.
Methane, the most abundant short-lived climate pollutant, is about 75 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2; black carbon is hundreds to thousands of time more potent; and HFCs are tens of thousands of times more potent.
The IPCC’s “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius” in 2018 stated that emissions of methane and black carbon need to be reduced by 35% or more by 2050. Drew Shindell, Professor of Climate Sciences at Duke University and a lead author of the IPCC report, says no scenario exists where the world can get to 1.5 degrees without reducing these super pollutants alongside CO2.
Our speakers on this important topic include:
- Professor Ram Veerabhadran, UC San Diego
- Dan Jacobsen, Environment California
- Julia Levin, California Bioenergy Association
- Coby Skye, LA Department of Solid Waste
- Sydney Chamberlin, Nature Conservancy
- Phoebe Seaton, Leadership Counsel (invited)
- Miya Yoshitani, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (invited)
- Kip Lipper, Senate Pro Tem staff
- Eduardo Garcia, Assemblymember and CARB Board Member
- Jared Blumenfeld, Cal EPA (invited)
Over the last week, we have read with dismay the reports from Metro that it is experiencing staff shortages due to the regional surge in COVID-19 cases—about 30% of Metro’s bus operators are either being quarantined, are caring for family members, or have the coronavirus. This has resulted in canceled trips. As The Source describes, some days see certain bus lines impacted more than others, which is “likely to result in crowding.”
COVID-19 is devastating our community right now and Black and Brown communities are especially hard-hit. Add Metro’s reduced bus service to the equation and the very people who depend on the bus to get to their jobs—many of them deemed “essential”—are being stranded at the moment they need reliable service the most.
Our friends at the TransitCenter wrote an important report on this very topic—about who is at risk of losing access to high-quality transit service as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates.
This is why we have been working with a group of inspiring transit advocates from across the United States to fight for public transit operations funding in the federal government’s relief bill. And we have been successful—the COVID relief bill that passed in December 2020 (which got so much press mostly about whether it would include $600 or $2000 stimulus checks) also included $14 billion for transit agencies and $10 billion for state transit agencies. Transit agencies and municipal bus operators in the Southern California region (inclusive of LA County, Long Beach, and Anaheim) will receive approximately $955 million. Similar to the CARES Act, the supplemental funding will be provided at 100-percent federal share, with no local match required, and directs recipients to prioritize payroll and operational needs.
This is a big deal and the result of a hard-fought battle. Prior to 2020, the federal government had never provided funds directly to local transit agencies for general operations (just for capital projects). In December Move LA held a major event (watch it here) with federal, state, and local leaders, and has contacted many of them directly to lobby for this outcome—so we are pretty excited.
However, the work isn’t done. Transit agencies still need $32 billion to survive in 2021. If Congress doesn’t authorize additional funding, transit agencies could be forced to make major cuts in service, staff, and more. LA Metro and our municipal transit agencies may not be spared as the revenue from our local sales taxes and the state gas tax that funds transit operations are way down. So the work continues.
One important effort that we are working on right now is to ensure that Metro’s transit operators are vaccinated. We know that Metro is working on a plan and since transit operators are on the frontline ensuring that other essential workers can get to work, they should be vaccinated as soon as possible. We are making the case with partner organizations to ask LA County’s Department of Public Health to follow state guidelines and put transit workers first.
We must act quickly to save transit and ensure that service is restored because transit is the connective tissue for our community—it ensures we all can get to work, and to grocery stores, doctor’s appointments, school, and more. Without it, we will see more than just a shortage of beds in our hospitals. Let’s all do our part to keep transit running.
We've been meeting with California's climate and clean air experts in order to undertstand where the state is in regard to goals for reducing climate and air pollution, what the state needs to ensure we meet or exceed these goals, and whether our proposed climate and clean air funding initiative could raise the money needed to accelerate our progress.
Unfortunately, we are not alone in questioning whether we are on track to meet or exceed California’s climate and clean air goals, which include:
- The SB 32 target to reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030;
- Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order that all sales of light-duty cars and trucks be zero-emission by 2035, all off-road vehicles and equipment sales be zero emission by 2035 “where feasible,” and all medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission by 2045 “where feasible”;
- The California Air Resources Board (CARB) first-in-the-world mandate, the Advanced Clean Trucks Rule, requires manufacturers to sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of sales starting in 2024. By 2035, 55% of all light-duty truck sales must be zero-emission and 75% of all medium- and heavy-duty truck sales must be zero-emission, and by 2045 every truck sold in California must be zero-emission.
Below are key takeaways from the conversation we had with nine panelists in early December, which focused on transportation, climate and clean air. The names of all nine panelists pictured above are listed at the end of this blog post. Our major take-aways from the event are below:
We must think about the climate change challenge together with air pollution and environmental and labor justice:
The transportation sector in California is the primary source of both the pollutants that dirty our air and the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change. The transportation sector—vehicles and fuels—is responsible for more than half of California’s GHG emissions, and more than 80% of the nitrous oxides (NOx) and other air pollutants that directly impact human health and hit low-income neighborhoods and communities of color the hardest. Air pollution, especially diesel emissions, is so impactful on these “frontline communities” because they are often located adjacent to busy freeways, ports, distribution centers, and railyards—where the heavy-duty diesel-powered trucks that emit the most air pollution and much of our GHG emissions operate. Cleaning up heavy-duty long-haul trucks—which are about one-eighth of all trucks in the South Coast Air District but produce about half of all diesel truck emissions—is especially important and will provide these communities with the most significant air quality, public health, and environmental justice benefits.Read more
Transit ridership has plummeted all over the U.S. in the wake of COVID, and experts agree $32 billion is needed to keep trains and buses moving. While the COVID relief package being debated in Congress is likely to include some funding for transit, it’s not likely to be anywhere near that amount.
This is why a broad coalition of transit advocates has come together across the U.S. to hold a series of online forums in big cities—including this one hosted by Move LA last week, which featured an impressive roster of elected officials, speakers and advocates.
- Congresswoman Norma Torres, Senior Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation & HUD
- Mayor Eric Garcetti, Chair of the Metro Board
- LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Metro Vice-Chair
- California Transportation Commission Chair Hilary Norton, Founding Executive Director of FAST
- California State Transportation Agency Secretary David Kim
- Ron Miller, Executive Secretary at Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building & Construction Trades Council
- Tracy Hernandez, Founding CEO of the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed)
- Art Aguilar, Chairman, Amalgamated Transit Union California Conference Board and President, ATU Local 1277
- Stephanie Ramirez, Associate State Director of Community, AARP California
- Autumn Elliott, Associate Managing Attorney, Disability Rights California
- Jessica Meaney, Founder and Executive Director of Investing in Place
- Carter Rubin, Transportation Technical Strategist, American Cities Climate Challenge, NRDC
- Scarlett De Leon, Campaign & Organizing Manager, Alliance for Community Transit (ACT-LA)
In the words of Nick Josefowitz, chief of policy at our Northern California partner organization SPUR, this is the Zoom call you want to listen to if you believe that we can do something about climate change, climate justice, dirty air that is killing Californians, and the wildfires that are devastating our community.
As you probably know by now, we are working with SPUR to create a major new funding source, possibly a statewide ballot measure in November 2022, to invest in strategies to fight climate change and clean our air.
While we would expect this measure to cover 20-30 years or more, in this discussion we focused the discussion on what could be funded in the first decade because we have looming climate deadlines in 2030—when California's goal is to reduce GHG emissions 40% below 1990 levels, which would put us on track to be carbon neutral—and we must meet federal air quality attainment deadlines by 2031, which in Southern California means emissions from all sectors must be reduced by more than 50%.
Unfortunately, we are not alone in questioning whether we are on track to meet California’s climate goals. Moreover, seven of the 10 cities that have the worst air pollution in the U.S. are in California, and tens of thousands of Californians are dying every year as a result.
TUESDAY: Join Us, Elected Officials, Agency, Business & Labor Leaders, Environmentalists & Other Important Advocates
As most of you probably know, public transit is in deep trouble because of the pandemic, because ridership and the revenues used to fund transit operations are greatly diminished in the aftermath of COVID. (El programa será interpretado al español.)
Experts agree that $32 billion is needed to keep this country’s trains and buses moving. While the COVID relief package being debated in Congress is likely to include some funding for transit agencies and their riders, it’s not likely to be anywhere near that amount.
This is why a broad coalition of transit advocates across the U.S. is holding a series of online forums in big cities—including this one hosted by Move LA, which will feature an impressive roster of elected officials, speakers and advocates (below).
Transit revitalizes economies. The public transportation industry provides more than 435,000 jobs, and it’s estimated that every $1 billion invested in transit creates and supports 50,000 jobs. Transit provides the means for many working people to gain a foothold in the economy.
Don’t forget that transit is how so many nurses, doctors, caregivers, grocery clerks and other essential workers got to work before COVID and still get to work during COVID. Transit provides anyone, regardless of income, with freedom of movement, as well as access to jobs, education, goods and services, greater economic mobility, and lower household costs.
Please join us TUESDAY in our call for Transit Justice at our "Transit is the Future!" Zoomposium Dec. 8, 1:30-3:00 p.m. with elected officials, agency leaders, business, labor, environmentalists and other important advocates (see below)Read more
You might ask why, in our work to clean the air and curb climate change, have we chosen to focus on the transportation sector? It’s because transportation—cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships, planes, and off-road equipment—is responsible for more than half of California’s climate pollution (when emissions from oil refineries are taken into consideration), 80% of smog-forming pollution, and 95% of toxic diesel emissions.
The transportation sector is, as Governor Gavin Newsom said in September when he announced his Executive Order to reduce demand for fossil fuels used in transportation, “the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change.”
We are very optimistic about California's ability to lead the world in the fight against climate change, and this year the state took 2 very important steps forward. Governor Newsom's Executive Order on Sept. 23 directed the state to:
- require that by 2035 all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California will be zero-emission vehicles and
- ensure that all medium and heavy-duty vehicles will be zero-emission by 2045.
We believe that banning the sale of cars and light-duty trucks that run on fossil fuels—a regulation on manufacturers—plus enhanced funding incentives to bring down the cost for buyers and to help building charging and fueling infrastructure—could accelerate deployment of zero-emission cars well beyond what could be achieved by regulation alone. This would bring light-duty zero-emission vehicles (both cars and trucks) to the point where we can envision the market soon operating on its own without the need for incentives.Read more
As you may know, Move CA (a project of Move LA) is working with our Northern California partner SPUR on the California Climate and Clean Air Initiative. We are convening discussions with California’s climate and clean air advocates and experts, with the goal of identifying a major new public funding source to invest in strategies that will ensure maximum and accelerated reductions in transportation emissions, both air pollution and greenhouse gases. We believe a statewide ballot measure is a viable option to achieve this goal. Visit the Climate and Clean Air Initiative website to learn more about, and follow, this effort.
At our first Zoomposium on this subject in October, climate and clean air leaders advised us that the transportation sector provides the biggest and most immediate challenge because it produces 40% of California’s GHG emissions and 90% of the air pollution in our most polluted communities. It is perhaps also our biggest opportunity because zero-emission battery and hydrogen options are rapidly emerging across multiple new transportation arenas.
We were also told that California needs “a boatload of money”—as California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols described it—to achieve the state’s climate goals: to reduce GHGs 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. (This would also enable us to meet the 2018 IPCC Report on Global Warming’s goal of 45% reductions below 2010 levels, also by 2030.)
We have 2 other major goals besides funding accelerated deployment of clean transportation technologies—we want to dramatically reduce short-lived climate pollutants or SLCPs, and also ensure that social equity and creating major opportunities for disadvantaged communities are hardwired into our investment program. We’ll be bringing more advocates and experts to the table in coming months to help us determine the best path forward.Read more
CA's leadership in the fight against climate change is ready to lift off! Join us at one of the launching pads:
On Thursday, Dec. 3, 10-11:30 a.m.
The California Climate and Clean Air Initiative invites you to join with us and a panel of experts as they tell us about exciting progress in the development of zero-emission vehicles and other technologies that will help us clean our air and end climate change!
California is writing a whole new breathtaking chapter in the story of its leadership in fighting air pollution and climate change! This past year under the leadership of Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols amazing things have been done.
For example, in June CARB adopted the Advanced Clean Truck Rule that requires truck manufacturers to aggressively proliferate an expanding fleet of zero-emission trucks likely to be powered by either or both electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.
In September Governor Newsom adopted an Executive Order that says no gasoline cars will be sold in California after 2035! And there will be an ever-expanding fleet of zero-emission cars for California consumers until then! That is just around the corner in climate terms!Read more
Climate change is a confounding problem requiring a global solution. California is a global climate leader, but where do we really stand in terms of reaching our state's climate and clean air goals?
The truth is that we are falling short. Even with funding from the Cap-and-Trade Program we do not have the resources we need to get there.
This is why Move CA (a project of Move LA) and northern California partner SPUR have begun talking with climate leaders, advocates and experts about developing a statewide ballot measure to provide a major new funding source to invest in emission reductions.
MOVE CA AND SPUR ARE EXPLORING PRIORITIES FOR THIS FUNDING INITIATIVE BY GATHERING FEEDBACK FROM CLIMATE LEADERS AND EXPERTS. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR OUR CLIMATE AND CLEAN AIR ZOOMPOSIUM #2 WITH CLIMATE EXPERTS ON DEC. 3, 10-11:30 A.M.Read more