A new report issued by ClimateXChange.org (CXC) studied California’s cap and trade program over the past seven years and concludes that the benefits of the program outweigh the costs by a factor of five. That means for every dollar spent, the state’s residents were paid back five dollars in some form. California counts twelve factors in assessing the cap and trade program’s benefits including job creation, commuter savings, soil and water conservation and human health.
Since 2012, California has raised over $13.1 billion from cap and trade. A portion of that amount finances the California Climate Investments fund dedicated to “reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities.” The CXC study found that the majority of investments from the fund have gone to transportation programs, including increased electrification of buses, cars and trucks, which in turn, decreases air pollution, particularly in urban areas.
By investing cap and trade dollars into these programs the state gets a “double” benefit. The primary goal of California’s cap and trade program is to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions. But when greenhouse gases are emitted, so are other air pollutants including one of the most insidious: the microscopic particulate known as PM 2.5, (which is the size of about 1/20 the width of a human hair). When PM 2.5 particles are emitted, humans absorb them deep in their lungs when breathing. They are so small they can also be carried by the wind long distances from their source. Long term exposure to PM 2.5 has been tied to increased rates of asthma, heart disease and other respiratory ailments. New studies from Harvard (not yet peered reviewed) and the University of Sienna suggest that elevated PM 2.5 increases the chances of contracting severe cases of infectious respiratory diseases like covid-19.
California’s cap and trade works in both ways it was designed. It has decreased greenhouse gas emissions and it has provided outsized economic and health benefits to its residents.