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Green State America: How to Keep America’s Climate Promises


Green State America: How to Keep America’s Climate Promises

Frank Ackerman

In January, Donald Trump will endorse climate denial, renouncing the Clean Power Plan and climate targets in general. This will damage the fragile global momentum toward emission reduction, established in last year’s Paris agreement. If the United States refuses to cooperate, why should much poorer, reluctant participants such as India do anything to cut back on carbon?


Henry David Thoreau,
Henry David Thoreau,
Henry David Thoreau.


Congress has basically left it up the the states to fight climate change and several are doing a good job but I cannot see the states acting on the international level together. That has to be the role of the federal government. Unless the Republican party acknowledges the reality of climate change and the main cause the US will probably never be able to do enough. The basis of the problem is large number of rural voters who seem to be immune to accepting knowledge about the real world. Either because of religion or anti-intellectualism they choose ignorance over knowledge. The best hope is that China and India exceed expectations. Those two countries account for a growing percentage of emissions and will largely determine what happens. China doesn't depend on ignorant voters but India could have a similar problem as the US with trying to overcome widespread ignorance.


Don't drive to climate change rallies.
If you have options, don't drive at all.


India and China have been growing economically while the US has been shrinking (wealth concentrated upward). As economic conditions improve, populations consume more fossil fuels -- and the reverse is true.


Trying to reduce emissions with carbon taxes will, as intended, make everything economically downstream from fossil fuels more expensive. But if only about 20 states do it, it may hurt them economically, making their products and services cost more compared to those from states that don't charge for carbon. (Unlike countries, states can't charge tariffs on goods coming from non-carbon charging states.) It's a complicated picture, especially with a fee and dividend rather than a tax, so it might not hurt them, but even the fear of it may slow, weaken or prevent a green agreement when that fear is exploited by unprincipled groups.

There are 2 parts to reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels--reducing burning (through shutting down the fossil industry, for example), and increasing the speed at which we build efficiency and clean safe resilient renewable energy infrastructure and start living wiser and more ecological lives. By concentrating on speeding the transition to renewables and efficiency, (retasking the current massive subsidies that fossil fuels get, for example) states can avoid the appearance-of-cost trap and help their economies. Such moves should "encourage" the other states to follow, regardless of the lunacy of their ideology--like Texas with its wind industry.


The US has by far the largest economy in the world and it has been glowing slowly. China has the second largest and its rate of growth has been slowing. India has a much smaller economy but I believe is has been growing rapidly. The biggest factor in determining emissions is the extent that coal is used for generating electricity. China has the most emissions because until recently 80% of its electricity came from coal. The US used to get 50% of it electricity from coal but that is now down to about 33%. India was also around 50% but I have not seen recent figures. Transportation is also a big factor and the US has far more cars than China although it is catching up and with 1.3 billion people will probably surpass the US I would assume. India has only recently had large number of cars and is just now building a highway system and its population should soon pass China's so expect many cars there also. Clearly what is needed is more green energy and more energy efficiency. That will allow for better economic conditions without an increase in emissions.


Well said. And they are retraining laid off oil workers to also install solar panels. Nice to see green growing faster than the brown/black technology.