|November 12, 2014|
Breaking Analysis: US-China Climate Deal to Avoid 640 Billion Tons of Carbon Pollution
|New commitments from China and the US could keep a significant 640 gigatons of CO2 out of the atmosphere
Today the world's attention is turning to the announcement of new climate commitments by the US and China. Using our global climate simulation C-ROADS, we have calculated the impact of the new commitments on the climate.
We estimate that the new commitments by the US and China would, if fully implemented, keep 640 gigatons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere.
The total of 640 gigatons is greater than all global fossil fuel emissions from 1990-2013.
And, as a thought experiment, if all developing countries were to cap emissions in 2030 consistent with China's proposal and all developed countries were to take the same reduction action as the US, then 2500 gigatons of CO2 would not be emitted into the atmosphere.
Here are the specific scenarios we compared, shown in the graph:
Anticipated temperature decreases would be 0.19 degrees C from the new US and China commitments and 0.81 degrees C for if the other countries followed. Reasons for the relatively modest contributions include:
In addition to their impact on tons of emissions this century, the new commitments have other important impacts...
These new commitments could enable more ambitious commitments by other parties. Analysis from the world's top energy and climate experts has shown again and again that transitioning to clean energy and making large reductions in future greenhouse gas emissions is technically feasible. (See for example: the IPCC, the International Energy Agency, and UNEP). Hundreds of people around the world have discovered this fact for themselves using Climate Interactive's World Energy Exercise. To date, capturing this potential has been limited by the political will of the world's nations to take decisive action. While the new commitments do not, on their own, secure a livable climate for future generations, they could encourage more ambition in other countries. If this happens, the impacts of these new commitments could reach far beyond 640 gigatons of direct emissions reductions.
These new commitments will drive prices of renewables and efficiency downward for everyone. To achieve their pledges, the economies of the China and the US will have to make large investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Such investments pay a double dividend -- not only do they reduce emissions, but they also make it more feasible for others to reduce emissions in the future. For example, as more units of photovoltaic energy or more wind turbines are manufactured and installed, the process becomes cheaper, putting wind and solar within reach for more households and businesses. And, in today's interconnected global economy, progress in these large economies will diffuse throughout the world.
Immediate and local benefits. Beyond the long-term and global benefits to the climate, the citizens of China and the US will experience some immediate local benefits from the actions that will be taken to meet the new climate commitments. Fewer people will die or be injured in the process of extracting, refining, and transporting fossil fuels, and less ancillary pollution of water and ecosystems will occur. The air of cities and around power plants will be cleaner, and respiratory aliments and associated health care and productivity costs will decline. Recent studies (for example a global study by the World Bank and ClimateWorks and a US study by the Harvard School of Public Health) have documented the fact that serious action on climate change could save billions of dollars and millions of lives around the world.
In this analysis, in order to quickly offer some sense of perspective about the importance of the new climate commitments, our team had to simplify the complicated global political economic and energy system to create some useful scenarios. Here are a few of the simplifications we made:
By Ellie Johnston, Climate Interactive