New report: Scientists say energy efficiency and renewables alone can slash U.S. global warming emissions 60-80% by 2050

Sierra Club/NW Energy Coalition/National Wildlife Federation

SEATTLE—Today, Washington organizations join with the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and the nation’s preeminent climate scientist to unveil a new plan for dramatically reducing the nation’s global warming emissions.

“Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.,” authored by ASES scientists, details how an aggressive-but-achievable increase in the use of energy efficiency and renewables alone can achieve a 60-80% reduction in U.S. global warming emissions by 2050.

Authors of the peer-reviewed report include scientists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Rocky Mountain Institute and MIT. Their report brings together detailed analyses of various smart energy solutions, including energy efficiency, solar (both photovoltaic and concentrating), wind, biofuels, biomass, and geothermal.

“Everyone’s been asking if energy efficiency and renewable energy can get us the necessary reductions in U.S., global warming pollution,” said Aaron Robins, Sierra Club Cascade Chapter energy committee chair. “This report moves the discussion from if to exactly how we should do it. We urge Gov. Gregoire and all our public officials to adopt policies aimed at reducing current greenhouse-gas emissions and avoiding new pollution sources.”

Climate scientists agree that we must immediately halt the growth of our emissions and begin reducing them within the decade to avert the most catastrophic effects of global warming. Authors of the ASES study identify renewable energy resources available across the United States that can be used to transition from yesterday’s dirty, fossil fuel-based energy economy to clean energy technologies that will power tomorrow’s economy.

Specifically, the report finds that:

• We can reduce carbon emissions by 1,100-1,200 million metric tons annually by 2030 with aggressive deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy alone;

• 82% of necessary reductions in carbon emissions can come from wind, solar, and increased energy efficiency. Biomass, biofuels, and geothermal can account for the rest;

• This plan would achieve the U.S. share of reductions required to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels at 450-500 parts per million and limit additional average temperature rise to 1°C above 2000 levels.

“Dollar for dollar, these clean energy solutions are the best choices for communities and the nation,” said Jeremy Smithson, owner of Puget Sound Solar. “If we want to build a new energy economy based on clean energy and new, good-paying manufacturing jobs, this is the road to get there.”

“With the running start we already have with renewable energy production, our agricultural resources and our highly educated populace, no state is in a better position than Washington to see the economic growth and job creation opportunities that will come from the conversion of our fossil-fueled economy to a clean energy based economy,” said Bill LaBorde, director of WashPIRG.

Solar Washington president Pamela Burton noted that fully three-quarters of the reductions in global warming pollution called for by NASA’s top climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, and other scientists “can be realized using energy efficiency, wind, and solar—all technologies we have today.”

“The threat of global warming is real and pervasive,” said NW Energy Coalition executive director Sara Patton. “The magnitude of the problem demands bold, aggressive action. 2005’s clean car bill and last year’s clean energy standards established by passage of Initiative 937 are good first steps. We need strong, effective leadership to go the next mile.”

Washington’s clean energy advocates urge our policy leaders, including Gov. Gregoire, to adopt the following policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

• A legally binding commitment to reducing greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, 60-80% by 2050.

• Set a carbon dioxide performance standard for utilities’ power contracts, their own generation, and proposed plants.

• All proposed state-funded projects should be evaluated for potential greenhouse-gas emissions. Since the transportation sector produces the most emissions, Department of Transportation projects, in particular, must be designed for and prioritized according to their effectiveness in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Congestion pricing should be considered as a way to put a premium on driving.

• Set an oil reduction target of 20% of current levels by 2020. Develop a plan to increase state use of hybrids and electrified vehicles and to increase transit investments to reduce reliance on single-occupancy vehicles.

• Complete rulemaking and ensure compliance with the Clean Energy Initiative, I-937.

• Support a policy to update and improve the state’s carbon dioxide emissions mitigation standard for new fossil-fuel power plants.

• Coordinate and help support the 20 Washington cities that have signed onto the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement to achieve 7% below 1990 levels of CO2 emissions by 2012.

According to Dr. Hansen, we must limit any additional greenhouse gas-related rise in average world temperature to 1?C above the year-2000 level. If we fail, we could usher in an era of unprecedented warming with such disastrous consequences as rising sea levels and large-scale extinction of species.

“The future that we leave for our children and grandchildren depends on the choices we make today,” said Paula Del Giudice, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Western Natural Resource Center in Seattle. “That is why we urge Gov. Gregoire to lead the Evergreen State on the right path toward clean energy,” Del Giudice continued.

“From a moral and ethical perspective, it is simply unacceptable to allow global warming to continue unchecked,” said LeeAnne Beres, Executive Director of Earth Ministry. “The Washington State faith community is united in calling for courageous leadership from our politicians to stop global warming, for the sake of all of creation.”

The full report can be downloaded at:

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