We reported last year that California’s wildfires were offsetting the emissions cuts associated with California’s expensive cap-and-trade system. Here’s the 2021 update. At what point will the federal and state government be charged for emissions due to their failure to management public lands so as to reduce acreage burned?

California Air Resources Board (CARB) CO2 emissions chart annotated to include wildfire emissions at a rate of 23 tons per acre burned. Note 2007 and 2019 emissions were so high they are literally “off the chart.”

Using an estimated emissions rate of 23 tons of CO2 per acre burned, emissions from California 2020 fires (4.2 million acres) were 96.6 million tons of CO2 and emissions from the 2021 fire to date (1.76 million acres) were 40.4 million tons.

Since 2012, California’s cap-and-trade system has reduced emissions by 180 million tons extrapolating through 2021 (at the 2019 level). But since 2012, approximately 12.35 million acres have burned. At 23 tons per acre, that makes 280 million tons of emissions.

Conclusion: California wildfire emissions more than offset emissions cuts obtained from the state’s cap-and-trade system. To the extent that acreage burned reflects government failure to management public lands and forests, federal and state government inaction is offsetting the state’s expensive cap-and-trade system.


September 1, 2021