December 15 2020

pandemic drives temporary drop in greenhouse-gas emissions, Trump’s legacy of climate damage, Biden elevates climate change to center of U.S. policy, enhancing the U.S. electrical grid, the largest solar power plant in U.S. history

The Washington Post reports that U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions will drop 9.2% in 2020, reaching their lowest level in at least three decades. This is due to the slowing of the economy because of the pandemic, with 14% of the drop attributed to reduced air travel (AP notes that the European Union is similarly expecting an 8% drop in emissions in 2020). Unfortunately, fully one-third of the reduction was offset by the emissions of carbon dioxide from forest fires. Emissions are expected to rebound in 2021, although it is expected that reductions in the electricity-production sector will continue to decline as renewable generation replaces coal and natural gas. This shows how difficult it will be to meet even the modest targets of the Paris Accord without a concerted effort by consumers and policy makers.

An op-ed in the New York Times argues that a Biden Administration can move aggressively to take action on climate change regardless of which party controls the U.S. Senate. While much more can be done with Senate support, throughout the campaign Biden has made it clear he believes that climate action is now a winning political issue. If he decides this issue will be an important determiner of his legacy as President, we may see the federal government take broad action on many fronts…

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