Economic analysis released by the California Air Resources Board in 2016 shows that achieving their 2030 carbon reduction target with market-based policies costs $1.7 billion, while a regulation-based approach costs $9.7 billion.
The analysis shows that market-based policies can achieve the same carbon reduction target as regulatory policies, but at an 80% cheaper cost.
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.
Takeaway: we need to focus not just on coal and gas, but also on reducing carbon pollution from vehicles.
Oil accounted for 43% of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in 2015, exceeding both coal and natural gas, which each accounted for 28%.
In 2016, natural gas is expected to emit more GHGs than coal for the first time since 1978.
Takeaway: the U.S. needs to pass stronger policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S.'s 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target is 17% below 2005 levels, equivalent to only 2% below 1990 levels (the reduction relative to 2005 is bigger because emissions in that year were far higher than in 1990).
Europe's 2020 reduction target is 20% below 1990 levels.
The U.S.'s 2025 reduction target is 14% below 1990 levels, while Europe's is about 30%.
The U.S. and Europe's climate targets (% below 1990 levels)
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.
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: while much attention is rightly paid to reducing emissions from power plants, we need to also focus on reducing transportation emissions.
For the first time in recent history, U.S. transportation became the most polluting sector, emitting more carbon dioxide since January 2015 than power plants (2,327 metric tons for transportation vs. 2,324 metric tons for power plants).
Transportation emissions are projected to remain at the top spot through 2030, at which point it is expected to exceed power plant emissions by 11%.
Power plant emissions are projected to fall much faster than those of the transportation sector, unless additional greenhouse gas reduction policies are passed.
Takeaway: regardless, both countries must increase efforts to reduce carbon pollution.
Recent data show that China is the biggest current emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), producing 22% of the world's current annual emissions.
The U.S. is the biggest historical emitter (27% of the world's cumulative GHG emissions since 1850), followed by the European Union (25%) and China (11%).
By 2030, India's annual emissions could equal or even surpass those of the U.S, if they don't pass additional policies to reduce emissions.