Union of Concern Scientist
WASHINGTON – Eleven senators, including Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), today introduced a bill setting firm emissions reduction targets needed to avoid the worst effects of global warming. The Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act calls for reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping emissions to 80 percent below their 1990 levels by 2050.
“We applaud the 11 senators who introduced a bill that acknowledges the magnitude and urgency of climate change,” said Dr. Peter Frumhoff, Director of Science and Policy and Chief Scientist of the Climate Campaign at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “The science is clear and action is needed now. This bill lays out a positive vision for the deep reductions needed to leave our children and grandchildren a safe climate.”
Human activity—burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests—releases CO2 that blankets the earth and traps heat. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased greatly over the last century and global temperatures are rising as a result. Scientific evidence suggests if atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping gases stabilize at or below 450 parts per million (ppm CO2 equivalent), we have a good chance of holding global average temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and averting the most severe impacts of global warming.
Staying under the 450 ppm threshold requires cutting global emissions roughly in half from today’s levels by mid-century. Given that the United States leads the world in both absolute and per capita emissions, we must achieve even deeper reductions here at home. The Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act takes an incremental approach to reaching this goal: U.S. emissions would decrease approximately two percent each year from 2010-2020 to reach 1990 levels. Emissions would be cut 26 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, 53 percent below 1990 levels by 2040 and fully 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The bill allows for acceleration of the emission reductions if necessary to stay below the 2 C target. It also includes provisions to increase our reliance on clean renewable energy sources, improve energy efficiency, test carbon capture and storage technologies, reduce heat-trapping emissions from passenger vehicles and re-engage in international negotiations on global warming.
“With such high stakes—more extreme heat and droughts, more intense storms, sea-level rise, increasing wildfires and risks to public health—the time for denial and delay is over,” said Lexi Shultz, UCS Washington Representative for Climate Policy. “It is irresponsible to saddle future generations with this problem when we have the technology and know-how today to put us on the path to reducing heat-trapping emissions. This bill sets firm, national targets to help reach our goal.”
The bill’s nine other sponsors are Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).