Much of California’s energy still comes from fossil fuels like natural gas and oil. When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide and other pollutants are released into the air. Greenhouse gases, such as methane, are also released during fossil fuel extraction and transportation. Carbon dioxide isn’t harmful at natural levels, but too much can act like a layer of plastic wrap around the Earth that lets in heat from the sun but doesn’t let it escape. This process acts like a greenhouse, which is why these emissions are called greenhouse gases.
In California, there are several areas of impact from climate change:
- Changing rain patterns: Some areas will get much drier while others may experience the reverse. This could significantly affect areas like California’s Central Valley, which supplies 25 percent of the nation’s food and is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts on record.
- More heat waves: We can expect more frequent and longer heat waves and drier summers. Smog forms faster in warmer weather, creating a health hazard for all of us, especially infants, children and the elderly.
- Rising sea levels: Sea levels are predicted to rise between 6 inches and 5 feet over the next 100 years. This could cause significant flooding and erosion of hundreds of miles of coastline, greatly impacting homes, agricultural lands and low-lying cities.
- More forest fires: As rain patterns change, forests will become drier and susceptible to more frequent and intense fires. These fires will add even more carbon to the atmosphere, further accelerating climate change.
There are things each of us can do to minimize our environmental impact. In California, our biggest areas of individual impact are related to reducing our energy use in homes, cars, and businesses.
Energy Upgrade California is making it easier for you to reduce your carbon footprint by providing you with a variety of ways to save energy and water. Your utility and municipality may also provide rebates and other incentives to help you take action.
And it doesn't take much to make a huge difference if all of us get involved. If every American home replaced one incandescent light bulb with a new ENERGY STAR energy saving bulb, the EPA estimates that we could save enough energy to power three million homes for a year, save about $680 million in annual energy costs, and eliminate nine billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year.