Climate 411

Getting 100% Clear on 100% Clean

Scientists agree that to maximize our chances of averting the worst impacts of climate change, we must stop adding climate pollution to the atmosphere by soon after mid-century. As one of the world’s most advanced economies, the U.S. must reach that goal no later than 2050 – which means transitioning to a 100% clean economy. If this sounds like an ambitious goal, that’s because it is. But it is also what’s needed to protect our economy, our health and our kids’ future.

Why a 100% Clean Economy?

For decades, scientists have warned that catastrophic climate change will result from continued unchecked greenhouse gas emissions. And for decades, our emissions have continued to grow.

Last fall, a Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body made up of leading scientists from around the world and responsible for assessing the science related to climate change, found that to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, it will be necessary for the world to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions (adding no more pollution to the atmosphere than we can remove) by soon after midcentury. We also need to achieve deep reductions in other greenhouse gas pollutants like methane. Continued delay will only deepen the challenge, and require us to reduce our emissions even more rapidly.

We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change in communities across the country from record flooding, devastating wildfires, scorching heat waves, and bigger and more damaging storms. Although the impacts are local, climate change is a global problem – which is why the IPCC outlined a global goal. But there are several reasons why the U.S. should strive for achieving a 100% clean economy as soon as possible.

First, the U.S. is the second largest emitter in the world, behind only China. Reaching net-zero emissions globally will only be possible with U.S. leadership. Second, over our history, the U.S. is responsible for by far the most emissions of any other country, more than 85% above China, the second biggest emitter. (Check out this Carbon Brief animation to see the relative emissions contributions of top emitting countries since 1750.) The U.S. has played a major role in creating this problem – we must also play a major role in the solution.

Furthermore, tackling the climate challenge is also just good business. By transitioning as rapidly as we can to 100% clean energy across our economy – including the power sector as well as transportation and industry – we will unleash the power of American innovation to develop cheaper, more efficient clean energy technologies. As global momentum on climate action continues to build, clean energy manufacturing will be an increasingly important industry. Innovative solutions developed by American entrepreneurs can be deployed around the world, helping lower the costs of global emissions reductions while strengthening American industries.

What Exactly Does 100% Clean Mean?

As we substitute zero carbon energy sources like wind and solar for fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, we reduce emissions. We’ve made a lot of progress on this front: according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, from 2007-2017, renewable electricity generation more than doubled, and wind and solar generation went from less than 1% of our electricity mix to more than 8%. But we can – and must – do a lot more.

Other sectors of the economy, however, such as air travel, or steel, cement and chemicals manufacturing, are very likely to be difficult and expensive to decarbonize with the technologies we have available or are developing today.

That’s where carbon dioxide removal technologies (CDRs) can play an important role. In comparison to technologies like solar or wind, which generate carbon-free energy, CDRs actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As long as we remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as we put into it, we’ll have achieved net-zero emissions – or a 100% clean energy economy.

There are many different types of CDRs, from natural approaches like increasing the amount of forest land and adopting sustainable farming practices, to technologies like direct air capture (DAC) that can suck pollution directly out of the air and store it underground or reuse it in products like fuel, fertilizer, or concrete.

How Do We Do It?

That’s a good question. We know that we are going to need to rapidly shift to cleaner sources of generation in the electricity sector, expand the use of clean electricity in sectors across the economy, advance energy efficiency – and also remove carbon from the atmosphere. The strategies we’ll need to pursue will vary by sector, and given the rapid pace of technology development over the last several years, it’s hard to know which zero-carbon technologies will end up being the most cost-competitive and easy to scale by 2050.

That’s why it’s important that the 100% clean economy goal is focused squarely on environmental results – cutting the pollution that causes climate change without specifying specific technology solutions. This allows for maximum opportunities to deploy a portfolio of technologies and approaches while providing incentives to innovators to find new effective and efficient low-, no-, and negative-emission technologies.

We can achieve this goal, but it will require policies that set declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions; account for the real cost of that pollution; stimulate the research, development and deployment of innovative technologies; and incentivize rapid action, especially in the sectors of the economy that look most challenging to decarbonize.

Climate change is an urgent problem that demands an urgent solution. The time is now to commit to a 100% clean economy that will be cleaner, safer, and more prosperous for all Americans.

Also posted in Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy, Science / Comments are closed

Trump administration gears up for rollbacks of climate safeguards

The Trump administration just released its updated plan of action for rolling back our some of our most important protections against dangerous climate pollution.

In store for this summer: final attacks on crucial climate safeguards that help keep you and your family safe.

Right now, the science is calling for dramatically accelerated climate progress. Extreme weather is threatening homes and communities. Yet the Trump administration is determined to take us backwards, putting communities at risk and squandering the economic opportunities we have from made-in-America solutions.

Here’s what we know about upcoming threats to limits on three major climate protections – measures to reduce pollution from cars, power plants, and oil and gas facilities:

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed

The Trump Administration’s Budget Would Make our Climate Crisis Even Worse

Scientists around the world are telling us, in no uncertain terms, that we – as in humankind — have little time left to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Those include: widespread coastal and riverine inundation, stronger storms and wildfires; new disease vectors; agricultural and other economic disruption. That is the reality and scope of the challenge we face.

There are, of course, things we can do — things we must do – to respond to the climate crisis, both to learn more about its causes and consequences and to activate solutions to prevent as much damage as possible.

Those solutions, for the most part, fit into four areas: investment, innovation and technology; science and research; mitigation, adaptation and relief; and policy. An intransigent and shortsighted White House has made the achievement of any significant policy gains difficult in the short term. Now, the latest federal budget proposed by the Trump Administration has sought to undercut those other three potential progress areas, exacerbating America’s susceptibility to climate disaster and running down the clock on desperately needed action.

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Also posted in Health, Policy, Science / Read 1 Response

Andrew Wheeler takes the helm at EPA. What’s next for crucial safeguards?

Just last week, the Senate confirmed Andrew Wheeler as EPA administrator. His installation signals a broader pivot point in defending EPA safeguards.

Over the last two years, the Trump administration’s efforts to categorically suspend crucial safeguards without public notice or comment failed across the board.

Looking ahead, Wheeler has almost two years to build on his troubling record by finalizing numerous deeply harmful major rollbacks. These rollbacks, if successful, risk thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, and billions of tons of additional climate-destabilizing pollution.

We need to be making more, faster progress towards a clean energy and transportation future – not tearing down the safeguards we have in place.

Here’s a look at where we stand on three major issues — the opportunities we could seize, as well as the challenges ahead.  Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy / Read 2 Responses

Trump administration ends talks with California, presses ahead with Clean Car Standards rollback

EDF attorney Erin Murphy co-authored this post 

The Trump administration announced today that it will end negotiations with California and press ahead with its attempts to roll back America’s successful Clean Car Standards.

Rolling back the Clean Car Standards would increase pollution and raise costs for American families. The administration’s justification for weakening these safeguards is based on a deeply flawed and biased analysis that contradicts the technical progress the auto industry is making to reduce pollution. An earlier expose highlighted the roll of the oil industry in pushing and benefiting from the administration’s rollback.

State leadership under attack

The administration says it is pressing ahead with its attacks on long-standing state authority to enforce tougher standards than those implemented at the federal level.  Read More »

Also posted in California, Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 1 Response

Experts condemn the Trump administration’s attack on strong Clean Car Standards

Americans are already speaking out in droves against the Trump Administration’s proposal to roll back America’s Clean Car Standards.

The proposal, if finalized, would increase pollution by billions of tons, cost consumers hundreds of billions of hard-earned dollars at the gas pump, and attack long-standing state leadership on clean cars.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are now accepting public comments (you can write to them here) and they’ll hold three public hearings in September – in Fresno, California; Dearborn, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (The administration had originally announced hearings in Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington D.C. – then abruptly cancelled them with no explanation.)

But right from the beginning, before the public comment period even started, people across the country were voicing their concerns about rolling back these critical protections. Automakers themselves, including Ford and Honda, have disavowed the path the Trump administration is taking.

Here are a few of the more recent statements:

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 1 Response