What if excess carbon in the atmosphere could be converted to more useful forms? That’s the ultimate goal of carbon conversion companies such as Opus 12, a startup in Berkeley, California. Making stuff out of carbon dioxide could be a trillion-dollar industry by 2030, and it creates an economic incentive to start removing carbon from the atmosphere sooner rather than later, which is a critical piece of most scenarios for limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
The policies explored in this series, taken together and adopted at national scale, would allow the United States to do its part in limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Can it be done? The final installment of “Look to the States” concludes with an outlook and some tools — drawing once more from state-level successes — for putting a decarbonization plan into practice.
To support decarbonization efforts, we will have to overhaul our transportation system. Over the course of the past century, we used fossil fuels to revolutionize the way we move from place to place — creating unprecedented mobility, but substantially contributing to climate change. About 30% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. But we can look to key states for a glimpse of what climate leadership on transit looks like.
States across the country have led efforts to revamp the electric grid: modernizing century-old systems, promoting energy efficiency, and investing in distributed energy generation that replaces central grids. Through smart investment and incentives, the federal government has the ability to usher in this new energy future nationwide, and ensure that all share equitably in the benefits — and that those who suffer from the highest energy burden receive the most help.
For years, red and blue states across the country have been building the policy architecture for ambitious national climate action. Part II of "Searching for a New Deal on Climate" explores how the federal government can follow the states’ lead on setting economy-wide greenhouse gas targets, establishing renewable energy requirements for electric utility portfolios, and building out new renewable energy generation.
Is there a version of decarbonization somewhere out there that is aggressive enough to meet the bar set by the scientists, yet pragmatic enough to work politically and as a matter of law and policy? Yes, there is. We should look no further than the blue and red states that are currently leading on climate to see the strategies in action that would achieve the swift and far-reaching emissions reductions we require.
This summer, ExxonMobil announced it would be working with carbon removal company Global Thermostat to help scale up their technology, with an eye towards large industrial applications. The announcement is the latest indicator that fossil fuel companies are looking ahead towards a world that’s far less friendly towards their products and the emissions they produce.
"The reality is that a price on carbon will not be adopted by developing and emerging economies because it makes their energy more expensive, and they are too busy trying to build their economies and lift themselves from poverty."
If fusion technology can be successfully commercialized and integrated into the electric grid, it could go a long way toward addressing climate change and future energy crises. A growing number of private enterprises are aiming to help demonstrate its practical viability.
Vastly higher clean energy targets are essential to empower the international community to make the leap to a sustainable future, according to Richard Heinberg, coauthor of “Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy.” In this interview, he delves into the practical challenges involved in the global transition to renewable power sources.