2016 Report: Phasing Out All Federal Fossil Fuel Leases Would Reduce Carbon Emissions, But Not Nearly by Enough to Avoid Worst Climate Risks

Takeaway: while limiting U.S. fossil fuel production can reduce carbon emissions, achieving the vast majority of reductions needed to avoid the worst climate risks requires reducing fossil fuel consumption.
  • A 2016 report calculates that a U.S. Federal Government phase-out of all fossil fuel leases would reduce carbon emissions by an amount (100 million tons by 2030) roughly equal to recent Federal fuel efficiency regulations.

  • As the figure below shows, this phase-out would close the gap by 9%, in 2030, between where U.S. emissions are trending and where they must be to avoid the worst climate risks.

Climate Choice: Reducing Global Emissions Avoids the Risk of Hurricane Sandy-Strength Storms Happening Nearly Every Year by 2050

  • 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.

Converting Every Single Coal Power Plant to Natural Gas Wouldn't Do Enough to Solve Climate Change

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.