How the World Can Cut 13 Billion Tons of CO2 Per Year and Save $14 Billion in the Process

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By significantly slowing deforestation, improving worldwide energy efficiency, and working towards a global renewable energy standard of 20%, we could cut 13 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions a year--and save $14 billion while we do it. And when I say "we", I'm talking about 'we the human race' here. Because that's the focus of this fascinating new study by the United Nations Foundation and the Center for American Progress--it's a broad plan for the world's nations to fight climate change, save money and resources, and stimulate their economies. And it's a study that people should be paying attention to, especially with Copenhagen coming up--this plan could literally help save the world. How many studies can even aspire to such a claim? Since this one can, let's take a look at how it aims to bring carbon emissions down to manageable levels in the next ten years.

According to the study,

Achievable gains in energy efficiency, renewable energy, forest conservation, and sustainable land use worldwide could achieve up to 75 percent of needed global emissions reductions in 2020 at a net savings of $14 billion
And how exactly will that work? First, the study finds that the most cost effective way to curb emissions is to halt deforestation. Second, mobilizing mass energy efficiency improvements would generate enough savings to pay for both the development of more renewable energy technology and aiding the developing world in cutting its pollution.

Here are the specifics of the plan's outline, via Climate Progress:

  • Increasing the rate of global energy efficiency improvement to 2.0 percent by 2015 (from current rate of 1.25 percent) would reduce emissions by 12 percent below business as usual in 2020, or 5.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or GtCO2e, and would yield a net savings in 2020 of $98 billion.

  • Deriving 20 percent of the world's electricity from renewable sources by 2020 would reduce emissions in 2020 by 10 percent below business as usual, or 1.3 GtCO2e, at a net cost in 2020 of $34 billion.

  • Reducing the annual rate of tropical deforestation 50 percent by 2020 and increasing the amount of land under sustainable management though habitat restoration and sustainable forestry, agriculture, and livestock practices would reduce emissions in 2020 by over 50 percent from business as usual, or 6.5 GtCO2e, at a net cost in 2020 of $51 billion.

The Simple Version
1. Ramp up energy efficiency across the board, save $98 billion and 5.4 billion tons of CO2 by 2020.
2. Get 20% of the world's energy from renewables, save 1.3 billion tons of CO2 at the cost of $34 billion.
3. Reduce tropical deforestation by 50%. Save 6.5 billion tons of CO2 at the cost of $51 billion.

$98 billion - $34 billion - $51 billion = Voila! Net savings of $14 billion dollars.

Wow! We can avert global warming and save money? Who knew! Oh. That's right--every sensible proponent of climate action who ever tried to explain that fighting global warming doesn't mean breaking the bank to the skeptics, deniers, and stubborn conservative politicians. One of these days, they're going to have to start listening . . .

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