Reviews | We can limit global warming if we waste no time
the The United States is committed in 2021 to cut emissions by at least half by 2030, but emissions have increased by almost 7% in 2021. Although the budget bill is currently stalled in the Senate, more than $500 billion in clean energy investments could, according to a recent analysisputting emissions back on track to meet the 2030 goal. At a time of rising global oil and natural gas prices, these tax credits and other policies in the proposed bill could also reduce emissions. 6.6% annual energy expenditure for households and businesses by 2030.
The climate and the world are changing. What challenges will the future bring and how should we respond to them?
We also need to pay more attention to issues of land use, permits and infrastructure. Net-zero will probably require substantial land use for renewable energy and transmission and pipeline infrastructure expansions, but there is a reluctance to accept such projects. For example, voters in Maine recently blocked a plan to bring more Quebec hydroelectricity in the northeastern United States, and environmental groups and residents of otherwise climate-conscious states like California and New York have resisted solar and wind farms. Meeting such challenges requires careful engagement and consensus building across constituencies affected by such projects. The time spent on such a commitment now can be time recorded later.
Carefully mitigating the risks and balancing the trade-offs associated with different types of deeply decarbonized systems is another important priority. For example, to ensure short-term reliability and affordability of the power grid, regions may wish to maintain nuclear and natural gas capacity to meet growing demand for electric vehicles and to phase out coal, even as natural gas is gradually replaced by zero-emission fuels like hydrogen.
It is also important to consider the extent to which well-designed climate strategies can support national and regional economic goals, including jobs, equity, and overall economic activity. For example, as the costs of rooftop solar come down, there have been significant disparities in its adoption in the USA by race, ethnicity and income. the consequences of air pollution many current energy systems may be inequitable, but a transition to sustainable, low-carbon energy systems can mitigate these disparities. Decarbonization strategies should aim to equalize opportunities to adopt new technologies and promote just transitions.
Of course, the United States cannot do this alone. While action by this country is imperative if we are to achieve global climate goals, the United States represents a decrease in the share of global emissionsand American leadership can help facilitate international collaboration and cooperation in technology transfer, financing, trade, and energy security for all.
The decisions we make now can have a disproportionate impact on the long-term future of humanity. Climate change threatens to jeopardize communities, public health and the environment. The next steps are clearer and more affordable than they have ever been.
Rather than being distracted by distant and probably irreducible uncertainties, let’s focus on what matters: deploying the clean technologies we know we need, implementing coherent climate policy, laying the foundations for future progress and creating a just transition that shares the benefits of a sustainable energy system.