In A roadmap for rapid decarbonization, climate scientists recently outlined a plan for global emission reductions to zero by 2050. The sobering proposal calls for rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and more. They start with the big picture: To hit the Paris climate goals without geoengineering, the world has to do three broad (and incredibly ambitious) things:
1) Global CO2 emissions from energy and industry have to fall in half each decade. That is, in the 2020s, the world cuts emissions in half. Then we do it again in the 2030s. Then we do it again in the 2040s. They dub this a “carbon law.” Lead author Johan Rockström told me they were thinking of an analogy to Moore’s law for transistors; we’ll see why.
2) Net emissions from land use — i.e., from agriculture and deforestation — have to fall steadily to zero by 2050. This would need to happen even as the world population grows and we’re feeding ever more people.
3) Technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere have to start scaling up massively, until we’re artificially pulling 5 gigatons of CO2 per year out of the atmosphere by 2050 — nearly double what all the world’s trees and soils already do.
“It’s way more than adding solar or wind,” says Rockström. “It’s rapid decarbonization, plus a revolution in food production, plus a sustainability revolution, plus a massive engineering scale-up [for carbon removal].” Learn more here.
How might this be implemented in Oregon? A recent draft study explores zero by 2050 through top-down requirements and options:
- the physical implications of zero greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon by 2050,
- technology options to be deployed, developed, or researched,
- economic implications of the clean-energy transition,
- policy candidates by sector, and
- governance options, including Oregon House Bill 2020.
A central problem with Oregon’s emission governance is that the state lacks a plan for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and toxic fossil-fuel emissions. In the absence of a comprehensive plan, policy creation has been piecemeal and uncoordinated, resulting in policy gaps, inefficient planning, inefficient spending, and insufficient guidance for public or private investments.