A 2013 study finds that reducing global greenhouse gas emissions avoids the risk of storms with Hurricane Sandy-like strength occurring roughly every year by 2050 along coastal regions in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.
The study shows that if no global action is taken, sea level rise will cause the annual odds of a Hurricane Sandy-strength storm hitting Atlantic City to increase from roughly 1-in-25 today to about once a year by 2050, but if we do significantly cut emissions, the odds increase to a more manageable 1-in-10.
Hurricane Sandy's $60 billion cost is greater than the entire proposed annual budget for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for 2017.
The average American currently eats over a pound of beef each week (roughly equal to 4 burgers), and beef is between five and ten times worse for the climate than chicken.
The U.S. produces one-fifth of the world's beef, which is responsible for nearly 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Thus, reducing beef consumption to 1 burger per week (the maximum amount consistent with a sustainable global emissions level) would eliminate 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
A 2015 study finds that reducing global greenhouse gas emissions can save nearly half of Hawaii's coral reefs, whereas failing to reduce emissions will result in a complete loss of Hawaii's coral reefs.
About 38% of the ocean around Hawaii is covered by coral reef—if we don't reduce emissions, Hawaii will risk losing all of its coral reefs by 2100, but if we do cut emissions, Hawaii would keep about 15% coral reef cover.
Reducing global emissions would provide between $10 and $30 billion in benefits to Hawaii between today and 2100 due to increased tourism and sustained local fisheries.
A 2016 study concludes that reducing global greenhouse gas emissions avoids the risk of three feet of global sea level rise by 2100, more than 15 feet by 2200, and over 43 feet by 2500 due to Antarctic ice melting.
If we were to significantly cut down emissions, the Antarctic ice sheet would likely remain stable over time, creating almost no sea level rise by 2100, and under one foot by 2500.
This would prevent the risk of catastrophic flooding in low-lying areas of major U.S. cities such as New York due to sea level rise.
A 2015 study says that if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly, parts of Southern California (such as Los Angeles and Riverside) can avoid over a month of additional extremely hot (95-degree) days by the end of the century.
Los Angeles, which currently averages 6 extremely hot days per year, will face either 54 (if global emissions continue) or 15 extremely hot days (if global emissions are cut) by 2100.
Takeaway: even coal's non-climate damages is reason significant action to reduce coal consumption.
A 2010 study finds that between $150 and $300 billion in annual negative impacts result from air and water pollution in Kentucky, West Virginia, and many other states.
These costs are not currently factored into the price of electricity from coal—if they were, electricity prices would roughly double.
The study indicates that these damages are conservative, as many other pollution sources were left out of the analysis.
Takeaway: reliability concerns about the transition to renewable electricity are valid, but not insurmountable.
Potential U.S. Electricity Generation Mix in 2050 (%)
A 2012 analysis shows that the U.S. can achieve over 80% carbon-free electricity generation by 2050, while maintaining grid reliability in every U.S. region and at relatively low cost.
This would reduce power plant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than three-quarters from current levels (equivalent to reducing overall emissions by about one-quarter).
This would increase the average American's monthly power bill by about $20, but this excludes power bill savings from energy efficiency and healthcare cost savings from reduced pollution.
Takeaway: we need to transition from coal to carbon-free energy, not natural gas, in order to prevent the worst climate impacts.
A 2011 paper finds that if the world converted all coal power plants to natural gas by 2050, the resulting reduction in global temperatures would not be big enough to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Even if, optimistically, no natural gas leaked into the atmosphere during its production and distribution, the resulting temperature reduction from a complete coal-to-gas shift would still be too small to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Takeaway: while it may be the case that hybrids are better for the climate than electric cars in some places today, electric cars have more potential than hybrids to reduce emissions from oil in the long run.
A 2015 report measured that two-thirds of Americans live in regions (including California, Texas, Florida, New York, New England, and the entire Northwest) where driving an electric vehicle (EV) produces fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than the most efficient gas-powered vehicle.
Even in regions where electricity used to charge EVs is the dirtiest, an EV pollutes 21% less than the average new gasoline-powered vehicle.
If the U.S. moved to a grid supplied by 80% renewable energy, an EV would emit roughly 90% less GHG pollution than the current average new gasoline-powered vehicle.
Takeaway: the U.S. needs to pass stronger policies to meet its climate goals.
A 2016 paper shows that by 2025, the U.S. is projected to reduce overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 22% below 2005 levels (factoring in all foreseeable policies), falling short of its reduction goal of 26-28%.
This projection factors in foreseeable upcoming policies such as regulations on heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency, existing power plants (the Clean Power Plan), methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and refrigerants.
In order to bridge the 4-6% gap, the U.S. must pass additional policies to reduce GHG emissions.