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The Longer The US Waits To Reduce GHG Emissions, The More it Will Cost

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Recent research from Climate Tracker reveals that the longer the United States waits to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the more expensive it will be to de-carbonize the country in the future.

This news is particularly pertinent considering Washington’s increasing inability to enact meaningful environmental policies recently. Not only has Obama come under fire from notable environmentalist Al Gore for his lack of leadership on climate change, he has also alienated a sizable chunk of his support base by reneging on his promise to tighten Bush-era emissions standards.

It’s all well-and-good to pledge a 17% reduction in CO2 emissions below 2005 levels (the US’s Copenhagen pledge), but if the country doesn’t have the political will-power to actually follow through with the pledge, than that 17% reduction is just an empty number.

But of course in a country that is so tied to the fossil fuel industry, it should hardly come as a surprise that environmental policies get halted in their tracks.

At the Panama Climate Change talks, Franz Untersteller, the minister of the environment for the German state of Baden-Württemberg stated bluntly: “[Germany does not] have the situation like you have in the US, where you have this Koch brothers.” This is in reference to political interference by the heirs of the $50 billion Koch Industries oil fortune.

However, as the US continues to waste time on climate change, it becomes increasingly expensive to reduce its carbon emissions. Back in 2009 (around the Copenhagen conference), the U.S. only needed to cut its emissions by a modest 1.3% per year to achieve a 17% reduction by 2020. But if the U.S. waits until 2015 to make its emissions cuts, it will require 3% annually to achieve its target. And since the technical feasibility of making steeper emission cuts greatly decreases, the cost of making those cuts shoots through the roof.

Why is it so difficult to implement environmental policies in the US? As time goes on, do you think it will become harder or easier to pass environmental legislation in the US.

Image CC licensed by Monika Thorpe: Factory

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