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.

Report: Taxing Carbon and Giving the Revenue Back to Families Can Boost the Economy, Lower Carbon Emissions, and Save Lives

  • A 2013 report from REMI, a consulting firm commissioned by Citizens Climate Lobby, shows that taxing carbon and rebating all of the revenue back to families is a net benefit for the U.S. economy (in each year, economic output is higher than in a scenario without the policy).

  • The report finds that this "carbon fee and dividend" approach reduces five times as much carbon emissions in 2030 than the Clean Power Plan.

  • The report also shows that the policy can prevent over 13,000 premature deaths and give the average family of four a $350 monthly check to compensate them for higher energy prices by 2030.

The Paris Climate Agreement Does Not Impose Any Penalties If Countries Fail to Achieve Climate Pledges

Takeaway: Because there are no penalties for missed targets, we need to pass additional policies to ensure emissions are reduced.
  • The December 2015 agreement does not contain any penalties if countries fail to meet announced targets.

  • The Paris agreement requires countries to increase the stringency of their climate pledges every five years (with no specific amount required).

  • The agreement requires countries to report on progress towards meeting climate pledges.

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.

Americans Eat 4 Burgers Per Week on Average. Cutting That to No More Than One Per Week Would Really Help the Climate.

  • 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.

Climate Choice: Reducing Emissions Can Avoid Extreme Increases in 95-Degree Days in Southern California

  • 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.

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.

Citibank: Cost of Doing Nothing About Climate Change is Far Higher Than Cost of Reducing Emissions

  • Citibank estimates that global damages from doing nothing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions range from $5 to $44 trillion of net present value (global GDP is currently $80 trillion), noting that these estimates likely undercount the true value of total damages.

  • The study estimates that the cost of investments to reduce GHG emissions range from $2 to $5 trillion of net present value.

  • The study also shows that the return on investment in reducing GHG emissions ranges from between 3% and 10% by 2040.

Even 2 Degrees of Global Warming Poses Large Climate Risk

Takeaway: the world must treat the 2 degree target as an upper bound in order to minimize climate risk.
  • A 2013 study finds that levels of greenhouse gas emissions previously thought to be consistent with limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees (regarded by some as a manageable level of warming) risk triggering secondary effects that, in the long term, would result in 3 or 4 degrees of warming.

  • 3 or 4 degrees of warming would have major undesirable consequences such as flooded coastal cities and displaced populations.

  • If no further action is taken, the world is projected to exceed 2 degrees of warming before 2100.

Climate Choice: Reducing Emissions Can Help the Southwestern U.S. Avoid Megadrought Disaster

  • A 2015 NASA study finds that unabated global greenhouse gas emissions will increase the risk of a 30-year long "megadrought" in the Southwestern U.S.

  • Megadrought likelihood is on pace to increase from the current 12% to 80% by 2100.

  • Reducing global emissions can lower this risk to 60% or less.