The United States can achieve its goal for 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 with the help of a study that revealed a roadmap to get there.
According to Nikit Abhyankar, a co-author of the study and a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, reaching this “ambitious” goal is critical for the planet to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The study details several different ways to achieve this target, particularly among the power and transportation sectors.
“By 2030 (a) predominant share (67-80%) should come from carbon-free sources and (the) majority of new vehicle sales (over 70%) should be electric,” Abhyankar said in an email. “Given the rapid advances in clean energy technologies, cost will not be the primary barrier to achieving this goal.”
Abhyankar said the study was an intermodal comparison, where researchers from various organizations compared results from each other’s modeling studies. The researchers found that all studies pointed in the same direction, according to Abhyankar.
This study is consistent with what campus professor of energy and chair of the Energy Resources Group Daniel Kammen found in his lab several years ago, according to Kammen.
The professor added that the cost of solar power has decreased by 90%, wind energy by 60% and energy storage by 90%. However, he believes the study’s goal could be more ambitious.
“2030 is not only achievable for 50%, but we can actually get close to 100% if we really took advantage of cost improvements that renewable energy has seen,” Kammen said. “Their result is a bit conservative.”
Campus public policy lecturer and executive director of the Center for Environmental Public Policy David Wooley recently wrote reports focusing on the electric power and transportation sectors, which he said are the two largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions.
Wooley’s reports showed how the United States could quickly decarbonize to achieve 90% clean energy in the electric power sector by 2035, or 50% by 2030. He said another report suggested there could be similarly noteworthy reductions in emissions for the transportation sector.
“The dialogue at the time was often about 2050, but it’s too late from a climate perspective,” Wooley said. “Anyone talking about 2050 is dodging the issue.”
To obtain these goals, Abhyankar said there will need to be a coordinated effort between state and federal governments. He called the federal government’s climate goal and California’s 2030 clean energy goals “steps in the right direction,” but added he would like to see more coordination and “aggressive steps,” particularly on transportation.
Meanwhile, Abhyankar, Kammen and Wooley all emphasized the intersection of climate change with social, gender and racial justice. Kammen said a “just transition” would be more cost-effective while producing more jobs and equity.
“Invest in low income communities, not just rich people,” Kammen said.