This sounds like a lot-but in fact, it's about a two percent
reduction a year (assuming we start NOW). It won't be easy: it will take
commitment and resources to switch from fossil fuels to new sources of energy.
But it needs to be done: the latest science tells us that temperatures are
increasing faster than expected, and the results are showing up in melting ice
caps, intensifying storms, and rising sea levels. America's foremost
climatologist, NASA scientist James Hansen, has said that we have just a few
years to start reducing carbon emissions, and he's endorsed our goal of "80% by
2050." That won't prevent global warming-it's already too late for that-but it
may be enough to stave off the most catastrophic effects.
Initially, few experts said explicitly "we need to reduce US carbon
emissions 80% by 2050.". Here's why: scientists have resisted in nearly every case prescribing policy because they
don't want to enter the political realm. That's why the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) and others won't suggest policy, but rather leave it
up to legislators to do the dirty work. Thanks to the great work of climate organizers everywhere, that goal is
now recognized as a line in the sand for what constitutes real
leadership on global warming. That said, Jim Hansen, the Stern Report, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC), a number of European
countries, the State of California and others (including the new USCAP business-environmental
partnership) have either suggested or explicitly referred to 80% carbon cuts by
2050 as a solution commensurate to the scale of the problem (Click here for a rolling list from the Pew Center).
And it's possible. The cost of renewable energy is falling fast. New
conservation technologies, like hybrid cars, are becoming more available. Many
Americans are starting to switch already, but only leadership from Washington can allow
this transformation to happen fast enough. And if we begin to get our house in
order, then we can play some role in helping China
steer away from cataclysm as well.
There are no guarantees we'll succeed. But if we act ambitiously, we have
reason to hope.
How are we going to do it?
Changing 80% of our energy use by mid-century is no small order. Though
we're not advocating any particular set of solutions for cutting carbon 80% by
2050, there are many options for getting from here to there. Below is a
list of links (which is by no means exhaustive) for blueprints and solutions
aimed at achieving our goal. We now just need to exert our collective will and
make them happen!
Sustainable Energy Blueprint
This is an excellent, five page summary of time-phased emissions goals and
the policy changes that will get us there. It was developed and posted by the
Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
Greenpeace International: Energy [R]evolution
The debate about climate change is over. Solutions are needed now. The Energy
[R]evolution is the road map for how to provide power for everyone without fueling
climate change. We don't need to freeze in the dark. We don't need to
build nuclear power plants. We don't need to cripple economic growth. We can
make a safe and sustainable world energy scenario a reality.
Environmental Law and Policy Center
This Midwest organization lists seven options to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions and outlines the environmental implications of each.
Union of Concerned
The UCS has posted a broad and in-depth road map to combating global
warming. Backed by several Nobel Prize winners, this site provides the analysis
and documentation that will form the foundation of government action at all
A twelve-step program of policy and social initiatives that will reduce
greenhouse gas production, provide energy security, and create thousands of
skilled jobs across the nation.
Energize America put
together a 20-point plan developed by informed citizen activists to wean the U.S. from its fossil fuel addiction and provide
with Energy Security by 2020, and Energy Freedom by 2040.
The Apollo Alliance advocates a new "Apollo" program, but this
time to transition the nation to renewable energy. They map out the renewable
energy options and, more importantly, project the positive impact such a
transition would have in creating jobs and alleviating poverty (i.e. our fourth
priority). The Apollo Alliance is supported by labor unions, environmental
organizations, economic and social justice organizations, and businesses.
Bright Ideas: A Carbon Cap:
Some people talk about putting a regressive cap on carbon emissions as a means of reducing our global warming pollution. Here are some points explaining what to look for in a responsible incentive-based carbon trading system. In the best models the sale of pollution rights are returned to the people in the form of:
1) Direct payments and/or conservation assistance (also called a Sky Trust, Cap-and-Recycle or Cap and Rebate)
2) Investments in accelerating our transition to a clean energy future with economic opportunity for more Americans, and
3) Helping communities and natural systems adapt to unavoidable climate changes and necessary transformations in our energy strategy.
The Sightline Institute offers a well-versed explanation of how a cap-and-auction system differs from a carbon tax and grandfathered cap and trade.
If you're feeling ambitious, this MIT study has some solid information as well.
80% by 2050 FAQs:
If we're all saying "Cut Carbon 80% by 2050," what does that really mean?
The bottom line is that this slogan means a bold and comprehensive shift in our energy priorities starting now. 80% reductions means an 80% change in our entire energy mix. It's essentially a 40 year energy revolution. Now, for all you climate scientists and policy dorks out there, a longer version could potentially read "Cut Carbon 80% below 1990 levels." Our emissions have risen by about 18% since 1990, so our first step will be to start reducing those. Furthermore, "Carbon" is essentially shorthand for "Greenhouse Gases" (GHGs,) typically measured in "Carbon Dioxide Equivalents" (CDEs). That means we convert other GHGs into CDEs in order to simplify our policy options. Once again, our simplification of the message is not designed to mislead, only to distill the science into a goal that's concise and powerful - a solution on the scale of the problem.