Scientific consensus holds that human activity is increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to levels far above what would be expected given natural variability. These gases are released as byproducts of fossil fuel combustion, waste disposal, energy use, land-use changes, and other human activities. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), create a blanket around the earth that allows light to pass through but traps heat at the surface, preventing its escape into space. While this is a naturally occurring process known as the greenhouse effect, human activities have accelerated the generation of greenhouse gases beyond natural levels. The overabundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has led to an unexpected warming of the Earth and has already started impacting the Earth’s climate system. Global climate change is expected to have significant adverse impacts throughout California and locally unless considerable steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (pollution that causes global warming). The purpose of this web page is to provide background on the science of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, and what climate protection measures Contra Costa County has already taken and what new steps are proposed in response to climate change.
Contra Costa County has already instituted a wide range of programs and activities aimed at responding to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most recently, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors in April 2012 directed the Department of Conservation and Development to prepare a Climate Action Plan to address climate change impacts in the unincorporated area by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
On December 26, 2012, a Draft Climate Action Plan was completed and released by the department for public review and comment. This Draft Climate Action Plan identifies specific measures on how the County can achieve a GHG reduction target of 15% below baseline levels by the year 2020. In addition to reducing GHG, the Draft Climate Action Plan includes proposed policies and actions to improve public health and provide additional community benefits, and it lays the groundwork for achieving long-term greenhouse reduction goals for 2020 and 2035. The public review period on the Draft Climate Action Plan (and the accompanying California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental review, Initial Study / Negative Declaration) runs to February 1, 2013.