Since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement in 2017, a number of local governments have taken it upon themselves to meet the deal's requirements to the extent that they can—but a new study finds that while those efforts are admirable and significant for individual states and communities, they are no match for the climate crisis fast accelerating by increased carbon emissions around the world.
Local leaders should continue doing what they can to combat the climate crisis, researchers at Data-Driven Yale found in their study. But until the United States—the world's largest driver of greenhouse gas emissions—is led by a government that prioritize a sharp reduction of carbon emissions and a shift to renewable energy, individual cities' and states' ability to slow the climate crisis will be minimal.
Although cities and businesses are working together to fight climate change, the responsibility to cut emissions still lies with national governments https://t.co/0eXdhNRk8L— Unearthed (@UE) August 30, 2018
An analysis of climate change pledges made by nearly 6,000 cities, regions and states, has found that “their emissions reductions are relatively small” and that they “don’t fully compensate” for an uncooperative US under president Trump. | @guardian https://t.co/4vWgEeG3Jm— Carbon Brief (@CarbonBrief) August 30, 2018
Examining the efforts of nearly 6,000 cities and states and 2,000 businesses—like California's advancement on Tuesday of a 100 percent renewable energy bill—found that those initiatives will only reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 1.5 billion to 2.2 billion metric tons by 2030.
In contrast, the United States' carbon output last just last year was 5.14 billion metric tons.
"When we look at the individual pledges the impact isn't that large, so we absolutely need national governments to pull through and do a lot of the heavy lifting," Dr. Angel Hsu, director of Data-Driven Yale, told The Guardian. "The actions of cities, companies, and states aren't insignificant but they can't do it by themselves. This shows everyone can be doing more. The current reductions are woefully inadequate and hopefully the actions of other entities will give national governments the confidence to be more ambitious."
The individual actions of forward-thinking governors and mayors, the study suggests, is no match for an administration which refuses to even acknowledge the consensus of 97 percent of climate scientists that human activity is contributing to the climate crisis, and which announced last week a plan under which states would be able to regulate their emissions from coal plants.
"The idea we just tighten our belt a bit isn't going to solve the problem. We need to stop using the atmosphere as a dumping ground, abandon fossil fuels, find other sources of energy and deal with the carbon debt we already have," Klaus Lackner, the director of Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University, told The Guardian.