Sequestration, Science, and the Law: An Analysis of the Sequestration Component of the California and Northeastern States' Plans to Curb Global Warming

Article excerpt

  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. CARSON DIOXIDE SEQUESTRATION SCIENCE
     A. Forests:
     B. Agriculture
     C. Carbon Capture and Storage
III. PROGRAMS INVOLVING SEQUESTRATION
     A. The Move Toward State Regulation
     B. California
        1. The CCAR fails to provide sequestration guidelines for
           nonforestry sector entices
        2. The guidelines that the CCAR does provide for sequestration
           underestimate the amount of carbon stored in forests
     C. The Northeastern States
        1. The RGGI cap on carbon sequestration credit may be too
           limiting
 IV. THE INTERSECTION OF SCIENCE AND POLICY: CARBON SEQUESTRATION IN
     CALIFORNIA AND THE NORTHEASTERN STATES
     A. The science supporting the CCAR's and the RGGI's sequestration
        allowances is not the most accurate, however, it is in line
        with the overall policies of each program
     B. The CCAR and the RGGI neglect to provide incentives for members
        to use sequestration methods beyond forests
     C. Incorporating science and policy to create the most effective
        carbon sequestration component
  V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

The impacts of global warning will be extensive and catastrophic. (1) Since 1990, the earth has experienced the ten warmest years ever, thus the effects of global warming are not a future threat but a present one. (2) In fact, global warming is "arguably the most far-reaching and formidable environmental issue facing the world." (3) Largely as a result of human activities in the past 200 years, the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) have increased; for example, carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]) has increased by thirty percent. (4) Fossil fuels, which are the energy source the majority of the world's population depends upon, are the chief source of GHG emissions. (5) Although future energy demands are uncertain, rising human population and growing development ensure the continued increase of GHG emissions. (6) In order to stave off the effects of global warming, it is imperative for governments to develop laws and regulations limiting GHG emissions. Understanding the science behind global warming "is fundamental to determining the appropriate policy response." (7)

As the science surrounding global warming becomes more concrete, governments around the world are actively attempting to control factors that contribute to climate change. Since the increases in C[O.sub.2] are primarily attributable to fossil fuel emissions, it is one of the major components that climate change laws seek to control. The ultimate goal for these programs is to stabilize GHG emissions from human activities; since it is almost impossible that these emissions will ever be zero, this goal demands that GHG emissions be offset by methods that remove an equal amount of atmospheric GHG. (8) One process that achieves this offsetting purpose is carbon sequestration. The majority of programs, laws, and protocols designed to limit the effects of climate change include a carbon sequestration component. (9)

Sequestration of carbon has been called "the only credible option that would allow the continued use of fossil energy without the threat of dangerously altering Earth's climate system." (10) In 2004, sequestration of carbon in the United States offset approximately eleven percent of U.S. GHG emissions. (11) Since the switch from fossil fuel energy sources to alternative energy sources will not happen overnight, sequestration is crucial. (12) Critics of sequestration offsets in climate change laws argue that any credit allowed for sequestration "justifies a carbon emission that would otherwise not have occurred because it would have put the user of fossil fuels over its emission allowance." (13) While it is true that reductions are the ultimate goal when confronting global warming, it is imperative to have other options that decrease the amount of GHG in the atmosphere because it is unlikely that fossil fuels, for example coal, will ever cease to be used as an energy source. …