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Climate: After the UN Report — an Action Plan
WASHINGTON - October 3 - The Economist reported recently: “It has been a long time coming. But then the fifth assessment of the state of the global climate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body, was a behemoth of an undertaking. It runs to thousands of pages, involved hundreds of scientists and was exhaustively checked and triple-checked. … The first tranche of the multi-volume report — an executive summary of the physical science — was released in Stockholm on September 27. And it is categorical in its conclusion: climate change has not stopped and man is the main cause.”
MICHAEL DORSEY, mkdorsey at professordorsey.com, @usclimateplan, @GreenHejira
EVAN WEBER, evan at usclimateplan.org, @evanlweber
Dorsey and Weber are co-authors of the just released report: “The Plan: How the U.S. Can Help Stabilize The Climate and Create A Clean Energy Future,” from the Wesleyan Climate Project and is available at: usclimateplan.org.
Dorsey said today: “After the IPCC report we need an ambitious American-led plan beyond what the White House is presently proposing.” The plan they put forward proposes a greenhouse gas fee, a national green bank and an end to wasteful fossil fuel subsidies. Some excerpts:
“The United States has internationally committed to the goal of reducing anthropogenic emissions of climate change causing greenhouse gases by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading international scientific climate change authority, says that industrialized nations must reduce their emissions from 1990 levels by 25 to 40 percent by 2020 in order to remain on track to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels — the temperature increase that scientists, policy experts, and governments have agreed is the safe upper limit. For the United States, this would mean a 36-49 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels — more than double our current emissions goal. …
“More than simply achieving emissions reductions of insufficient magnitude given the scope of the climate crisis, President Obama’s ‘Climate Action Plan’ and ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy fall short in three critical areas:
“The President’s plans prop up technologies — such as natural gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, offshore drilling in the Arctic, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear power — that do not provide enough benefits relative to their inherent risks. They also underplay the potential for a robust and achievable renewable energy economy that has the possibility to produce real economic savings for the American people. ….
“The White House plan calls for converting our nation’s transportation fleets to run on Compressed Natural Gas, but because of the high uncertainty of current methane leakage rates, this is not a good bet for the climate. Unless leakage rates are kept low, converting our nation’s cars and trucks to run on natural gas will actually have more of a warming impact than the conventional fuel supply. …
“Investments of around $30 billion over 20 years could double the expected rate in ridership growth for U.S. public transit. Combining this with changes in land use, expansion of bike lanes, and improvements in pedestrian conditions, transportation sector emissions could be reduced by 3-10 percent by 2050. If we invest strongly in battery technologies and green our electricity grid, running 56 percent of light-duty on electricity could result in at least 26-30 percent reductions in transportation emissions by 2050. …
“If forests and soils in the United States were restored to their historical potential, they could sequester an additional 39 gigatons of CO2 annually — around seven times the United States’ yearly emissions and more than the entire world’s annual anthropogenic emissions. …
“Simply through basic changes in land-use, agricultural, and forestry practices, bio-sequestration in the United States has the technological potential to sequester an additional one gigaton of CO2 per year. …
“Eliminating wasteful portions of the $13.15 billion in fossil fuel subsidies would have no discernible effect on gas prices and raise $40 billion over 10 years, revenue that could be more effectively spent in R&D, clean energy deployment, or reducing the deficit. Most importantly, removing fossil fuel subsidies in the U.S. would send a strong signal to the international community to engage in responsible subsidy reform, where larger emissions reductions could be achieved.”
Weber adds: “It’s nice to finally hear President Obama talk about climate change as a serious issue, but the research in our report shows that what’s laid out in the President’s Climate Action Plan isn’t enough to adequately tackle this problem. We need the President and the White House staff to design and advocate for a much more ambitious plan that can reduce our emissions rapidly and in a balanced way. While Congress may be asleep at the wheel, the American public demand and need more from our nation’s leaders to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We have put forward a plan that is sensible and matches the scale of the climate crisis.”
Dorsey was a visiting scholar and professor of environmental policy in Wesleyan University’s College of the Environment for the 2012-2013 academic year. Weber is a recent graduate of Wesleyan University and deputy researcher for the Wesleyan Climate Project.