Delay Has Raised US Cost of GHG Reductions

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cost of gop obstruction clean energyIn an update of world climate greenhouse gas reductions in Panama this week, international reduction targets and pledges of individual countries were tallied to assess global chances of staying within the climate levels deemed safe. For the US, the news was not good.

The US pledge at Copenhagen, coming from the success of Waxman-Markey, the climate legislation needed to reach this target being passed in the House, had been for a 17% reduction below 2005 levels. But the climate legislation was stopped dead in the Senate by Republicans. Any time in the last ten years that Senate has had at least 40% Republicans seated, legislation that threatens the fossil energy industry in particular has been filibustered. With several “Democrats” like West Virginia’s  Manchin ushered in in 2010 on fossil money, and chances are even lower.

To the rest of the world, it is clear that climate deniers funded by the fossil energy industry pretty much prevent sensible legislation on clean energy in the US. This week, in comparing the EU to the US, the minister of the environment for the German state of Baden-Württemberg, Franz Untersteller was blunt.

“We don’t have the situation like you have in the US, where you have this Koch brothers,” said Untersteller, referring to the political interference by the heirs to the $50 billion Koch Industries oil fortune.

Panama put it more politely.”The Obama Administration has experienced difficulties in moving major policies forward that would contribute substantively to achieving this goal”.

But the longer the delay, the more expensive it will become to reach the target needed. The technical feasibility of actually achieving reductions decreases with steeper rates, and the costs tend to increase rapidly. Both are depending on national circumstances, but research suggests that a 3% annual reduction would be very ambitious and costly.

Climate Tracker analyzed the effect of different starting points for implementing action on the required emission reduction rates to achieve the United States’ Cancun pledge of 17% below 2005 levels.

While only a relatively easy annual reduction rate of 1.3% annually would have been needed to reach a 17% reduction from emission levels in 2010, just after the of the US target in Copenhagen in December 2009.

By 2015, however it will take much steeper reduction rates of 3% annually to meet the target, assuming that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the relatively low average rate of the last five years from 2006 to 2010, a period which includes the Bush recession begun in 2008. If the economy recovers it would likely rise faster, making the costs of reduction more expensive.

The delay puts the US at a financial disadvantage in comparison with China and the EU.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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