Santa Barbara County is actually doing a lot better job at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions than anyone thinks. Emissions from oil production and processing have been cut in half from 492K metric tons (of carbon dioxide equivalent) to 189K metric tons over the past decade due to the shutdown of Exxon and withdrawal of major, new onshore projects. These emissions were once the largest in the county after transportation. This success is buried deep in the county’s climate report and excluded from the emissions inventory for what are political rather than scientific reasons. (Supervisors remain split over the issue of oil drilling.)

Recent reductions from methane capture at the Tajiguas landfill and 100 percent renewable energy goals achievable through community choice programs have not yet shown up in the data either but will be huge.

In addition, we scored major climate wins as supervisors directed county staff to “develop an ordinance to restrict natural gas infrastructure and increase energy efficiency performance and electric vehicle charging infrastructure for new construction and major renovations.” They also voted to make county buildings all-electric, including retrofits, and to buy only electric vehicles for the county fleet. Plus, they voted to develop a Zero Emission Vehicle Plan to strategically identify gaps, resources, projects and programs to advance use of zero emission vehicles in county operations and the community.

The one-two punch of 100 percent renewable energy combined with electrifying buildings and transportation is how the county can achieve its newly set goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, while improving people’s health and saving money. This is what progress looks like.

There is enough bad climate news in the latest United Nations reports; we don’t need to rain on our own parade when we have real victories to celebrate. Action is the best antidote to despair, and nihilism gets us nowhere. We can do this, people.

Katie Davis is chair of the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter.


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