The month of December opened with good news and bad news for people concerned about the climate crisis.
A climate analysis released by the independent watchdog group Climate Action Tracker said that based on promises made by Paris Climate Agreement participants, the world could limit warming to 2.1 degrees C (3.8 degrees F) by the year 2100. Countries including Japan, South Korea, and China have promised to reach zero emissions by 2060. And while the U.S. isn’t currently a part of the agreement, President-elect Joe Biden plans to rejoin next month and has set a rigorous net-zero promise for 2050.
But the next day, another report threw cold water on that hopeful note, pointing out that many of these countries were not on track to keep their emissions promises. In fact, the study, which explores the gaps between Paris agreement goals and reality, found that countries are planning to increase fossil fuel production by 2 percent annually on average, which would push global temperature rise well past 2.1 degrees C by 2100.
Into that conversation comes a Princeton University report, published Tuesday, that presents several plausible paths for the U.S. to arrive at net-zero emissions by 2050 (complete with economic growth) — as long as government officials make swift moves to invest in sustainable infrastructure.
One such path requires an investment in solar and wind manufacturing, which offers long-term domestic employment opportunities without incurring too many additional technology costs. The caveat? Manufacturing capacity for turbines and photovoltaics would have to increase drastically by 2050 — up to 45 times for wind and 120 times for solar. These strides aren’t achievable without short-term public and political support — progress that has been difficult due to the Trump administration’s habit of burying dozens of studies outlining the promise of renewable energy infrastructure.
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