Last updated on: 10/2/2020 | Author: ProCon.org

Should the US Move toward Net Zero Carbon?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Josh Burke, Policy Fellow in the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, in an Apr. 30, 2019 article, “What Is Net Zero?,” available at lse.ac.uk, stated:

“‘Net zero’ refers to achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere. Like a bath with the taps on, an approach to achieving this balance can either be to turn down the taps (the emissions) or to drain an equal amount down the plug (removals of emissions from the atmosphere, including storage for the emissions such as ‘carbon sinks’).

In contrast to a gross-zero target, which would reduce emissions from all sources uniformly to zero, a net-zero emissions target is more realistic because it allows for some residual emissions.

This takes into account that some emissions are produced by ‘hard-to-treat’ sectors, such as aviation and manufacturing, where reducing emissions is either too expensive, technologically too complex or simply not possible.

In a net-zero scenario the residual emissions from these sectors are allowed as long as they are offset by removing emissions using natural or engineered sinks – gross negative emissions.”

Apr. 30, 2019

Somini Sengupta, international climate reporter, and Nadja Popovich, Climate Graphics Editor, both at The New York Times, in a Sep. 25, 2019 article, “More Than 60 Countries Say They’ll Zero Out Carbon Emissions. The Catch? They’re Not the Big Emitters.,” available at nytimes.com, stated:

“The United Nations announced this week [Sep. 25, 2019] that more than 60 countries have said they will try to reduce their net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. But those countries in 2017, accounted for only 11 percent of global emissions — in other words, not a lot.

That’s because the world’s biggest emitters are missing from the list, including the top three: China, the United States, and India. The sizeable emitters on the aspirational net-zero list include Britain, France and Germany. Most of the rest are small countries that have tiny carbon footprints yet are among the worst affected by the ravages of climate change, like the Bahamas, the Maldives, and the Marshall Islands.”

Sep. 25, 2019

Sam Ricketts, Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment, Rita Cliffton, Research Associate, and Lola Oduyeru, Manager of State and Local Government Affairs, all for the Center for American Progress, and Bill Holland, Senior Director for State Advocacy and Policy at the League of Conservation Voters, in an Apr. 30, 2020 article, “States Are Laying a Road Map for Climate Leadership,” available at americanprogress.org, stated

“State climate action is accelerating as more states are taking increasingly ambitious actions throughout the country. Currently [as of Apr. 30, 2020], 15 states and territories have taken legislative or executive action to move toward a 100 percent clean energy future. This includes 10 states, along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, that have passed legislation to implement 100 percent clean electricity policies and economywide greenhouse gas pollution-reduction programs.”

Apr. 30, 2020

PRO (yes)

Pro

Steve Pye, PhD, Associate Professor in Energy Systems at UCL Energy Institutes, in an Apr. 19, 2017 article, “Countries Need to Move to Zero-Carbon Energy Now–Here’s Why,” available at blogs.scientificamerican.com, stated:

“The climate science is clear – we have a finite carbon budget and global greenhouse gas emissions must be zero before the end of the century, and much earlier if we want to load the probability in our favour of limiting warming to below an average 2°C.

If the world is to have a chance of meeting this target, countries need to move to zero carbon energy systems now…

To achieve this goal [of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius], the world needs to work together to meet a finite carbon budget. This budget is often described as a “bathtub” that we are trying to prevent from overflowing, where greenhouse gas emissions are represented by the water flowing into the bathtub. Today, two-thirds of the water flowing into the bathtub comes from the energy sector.

If we want to prevent the bathtub from overflowing, every country has to do its part to reduce the flow of water into the tub. That is, each country needs to rapidly decrease their own greenhouse gas emissions.”

Apr. 19, 2017

Pro

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, in a report accessed on Oct. 2, 2020, “Getting to Zero: A U.S. Climate Agenda,” available at c3es.org, stated:

“A strong body of scientific evidence underscores the imperative of decarbonizing the global economy in order to avoid the worst potential impacts of climate change. Key strategies for achieving that goal include increasing energy efficiency, decarbonizing the power sector, switching to electricity and other low- and zero-carbon fuels, reducing non-CO2 climate pollutants, and using both nature and technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

In the United States, achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 will require action across society—by governments, the private sector, and the public at large. It will require both innovative technologies and strong policies to ensure they are deployed. And apart from reducing the grave risks of climate change, it will provide a strong foundation for continued U.S. growth and competitiveness.

Getting to Zero: A U.S. Climate Agenda recommends that a U.S. decarbonization strategy be guided by these key objectives: achieving net-zero emissions no later than 2050, reestablishing U.S. global leadership on climate change, developing and mobilizing a broad array of technological solutions, promoting cost-effective solutions, protecting and enhancing U.S. competitiveness and energy security, ensuring an equitable transition, strengthening climate resilience, responding to new information and circumstances, and providing predictability to drive long-term investment.”

Oct. 2, 2020

CON (no)

Con

Roger Pielke, PhD, Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in an Oct. 27, 2019 article, “The World Is Not Going To Halve Carbon Emissions By 2030, So Now What?,” available at forbes.com, stated:

“Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Specifically, “Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.” Since then, many advocates and policy makers have proposed that target as a political goal.

There is simply no evidence that the world is, or is on the brink of, making ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ [per the Paris Climate agreement] that would be required for the deep decarbonization associated with a 1.5°C temperature target. Anyone advocating a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 is engaging in a form of climate theater, full of drama but not much suspense. But don’t just take it from me, do the math yourself…

I’ve got news for you – the world is going to miss the 2030 target whether we talk about that reality or deny it, so we had better get to work on rethinking climate policy.”

Oct. 27, 2019

Con

Natascha Engel, former Labour Party Member of Parliament (UK), June 28, 2019 article, “Net-Zero Carbon Target Is Reckless and Unrealistic,” available at thetimes.co.uk, stated:

“As impressive as the target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 sounds, other countries will recognise the capacity it has to destroy UK plc [United Kingdom public limited company] for generations to come. The lack of scrutiny of what would be the most expensive and socially disruptive public policy since the Second World War is truly remarkable…

[O]ur carbon emissions over the past 20 years have dropped by less than 5 per cent — and we think we can reduce them by 100 per cent in the next 30 years?

About 80 per cent of the world’s energy use still comes from oil, coal and gas. If we want global emissions to fall we need to decarbonise, to capture and store carbon dioxide. Developing the technology and making it pay is what other countries might buy from us. Meaningless targets and virtue signalling, on the other hand, will simply be ignored.”

June 28, 2019