The United States is not on course to meet its 2025 goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels, maintains a new analysis published in Nature Climate Change and reported in Science.
Even with all existing policy plans fully implemented—including the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, currently stalled and before the courts—the overshoot will be substantial, as much as 1.5 billion tonnes above the target of 4.5 to 5.5 billion tonnes.
That conclusion is based in part on research showing a greater than previously estimated leakage of methane from hydrocarbon production and distribution, and partly on making a greater allowance for political uncertainty in the implementation of emission reduction policies. (The Republican candidate for U.S. president is campaigning on promises to undo environmental regulation and expand coal, oil, and gas production.)
Undaunted, the study’s lead author, Jeffery Greenblatt, called the grim business-as-usual outlook only “a best-level effort,” adding that, “hopefully with continued movement in the right direction, we’ll be able [to meet America’s targets].”
To do that, Greenblatt’s study calls for advances in halting methane leaks (representing 121 million tonnes of uncapped greenhouse gas releases), replacing refrigerants that are also greenhouse gases (67 million tonnes), increasing the efficiency of appliances and buildings (29 million tonnes each), accelerating the deployment of electric cars, bio- and hydrogen fuels, and putting a price on carbon pollution.
A vice president for climate at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was more pessimistic, however. Stephen Eule noted that existing policy proposals ignore “the third-biggest emissions sector” in the U.S. economy: its industry.
“No one is talking about regulating the industrial sector,” Eule said. “And I think I know why, because it’s a job killer.” (Though the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Alliance for Industrial Efficiency would beg to differ.)