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Editor's Corner: From Paris pact to California coast

If you drive over to the coast, which most of us do occasionally, one of the things you learn is that traffic in the Bay Area and Southern California is clogged like a drain full of hair most of the time, which means those two regions are responsible for a good share of the global warming that occurs on the planet — assuming that the theory that carbon dioxide causes global warming is correct.

So the residents of those megalopolises, whose millions of cars donate carbon dioxide to the atmosphere day and night, should be grateful President Trump has decided to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords, which would be pretty hard on places such as S.F. and L.A. if the terms of the accords were followed.

These are the terms, according to The Associated Press:

The United States has agreed to reduce the country’s pollution emissions to 26 percent to 28 percent of 2005 levels by 2025 — about 1.6 billion tons. Countries are permitted under the treaty to change their goals and there is no punishment for missing targets.

That would mean getting more than 10 percent of the vehicles off the roads in those vast cities in the next eight years, assuming that motor vehicles are responsible for most of the carbon dioxide production.

Come on. Give us a break. Would that actually happen? Could you imagine a tenth of those people parking their cars? Not likely. Getting that many Californians out of their cars would be like getting tuna fish out of an unopened can.

More of a possibility is that the number of vehicles will increase rather than decrease as the populations in those areas grow.

Right now, you are seeing an increase in SUVs and pickups.

Yes, hybrids and all-electric vehicles have helped save gasoline, but not that much, when you calculate it. Hybrids do get better mileage, but not enough to meet anywhere near the kind of goal that’s been set in the Paris accords. And all-electric vehicles use electricity, which in California is generated largely by the burning of natural gas, which produces carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, people will continue to air-condition and heat their houses, both of which require energy produced by the burning of fossil fuels. If you get the vast numbers of new houses that are predicted to be built in California by 2025, you will see more energy used, not less.

Yet, Gov. Jerry Brown and some in the Legislature say California is leading the world in greenhouse gas reduction, but how do you really do that without turning everything off?

For example, the hot air that comes out of Sacramento is unlikely to decrease, and a major component of that hot air is carbon dioxide.

Also, carbon dioxide, being an invisible odorless gas, is almost impossible to track. All you know is how much there is in a particular sample. If there is carbon dioxide high enough in the atmosphere to keep heat from being reflected outward — the so-called greenhouse effect — how do you know where it came from? Did it come from Bejing, where the people wear masks to keep from breathing that city’s polluted air, or did it come from Yellowstone Park, which belches carbon dioxide 24-7?

Not much has happened since the Paris accords went into effect, and little is likely to happen if the U.S. pulls out, because the talks will be reopened again as more is learned about what works and what doesn’t.

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