Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

California lawmakers passed a bill this week aiming for 100 percent renewable energy in the state by 2045—but a new study finds local and state efforts aren't enough to combat the climate crisis. (Photo: Diana Robinson/Flickr/cc)

Local Efforts Noble, But Study Shows Scale of Climate Threat Demands 'Heavy Lifting' of National Governments

"The actions of cities, companies, and states aren't insignificant but they can't do it by themselves."

Julia Conley

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.

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.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·


Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·


With GOP House Control Looming, Pascrell Calls for Swift Release of Trump Tax Records

"Donald Trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 days we have finally obtained the documents," said the New Jersey Democrat. "We should review and release them."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo