CO2 and Climate Change

Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns from increased levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere are triggering adverse environmental impacts. In many places, extreme weather events such as flooding, drought, storms, and forest fires are becoming more frequent, severe, and costly.

  • The Earth’s surface is currently warming at a rate of about 3°F per century; 2015 was the Earth's hottest year on record

  • Average CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, which were approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) in pre-industrial times, now average 400 ppm annually, with global temperatures reaching new highs.

Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

The number of countries that have adopted policies and regulations to reduce GHG emissions continues to grow. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued rulemakings to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Within WESTCARB’s territory, British Columbia, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington have passed legislation setting GHG reduction targets. A variety of policy approaches—carbon taxes, cap-and-trade programs, low carbon fuel standards, and power plant emission performance standards—are helping achieve these goals.

For many large industrial facilities, carbon capture and storage technologies will be needed to reduce CO2 emissions to comply with GHG regulations.




hummingbird feeding

CO2 Facts

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is in the air we breathe; it is a natural substance that is fundamental to life on earth

  • Plants convert CO2 and water into carbohydrates to use for growth (photosynthesis)

  • CO2 doesn’t burn or explode

  • CO2 is not a water pollutant or a hazardous waste

  • CO2 is used in common products and applications, including carbonated beverages, fire extinguishers, and enhanced oil recovery

  • In high concentrations, CO2 can pose a risk of asphyxiation in humans and animals. This has been a problem with naturally occurring CO2 in some volcanic regions.