Reaching zero net emissions of carbon dioxide from energy and industry by 2050 can be accomplished by rebuilding U.S. energy infrastructure to run primarily on renewable energy, at a net cost of about $1 per person per day, according to new research.
In a new study in AGU Advances, researchers created the first published roadmap specifying how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world must reach zero net carbon dioxide emissions by mid-century to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
The researchers found the U.S. can reach zero net carbon emissions by mid-century by methodically increasing energy efficiency, switching to electric technologies, using clean electricity (especially wind and solar power), and deploying a small amount of carbon capture technology.
The pathways studied have net costs ranging from 0.2% to 1.2% of GDP, with higher costs resulting from certain tradeoffs, such as limiting the amount of land given to solar and wind farms.
“We were pleasantly surprised that the cost of the transformation is lower now than in similar studies we did five years ago, even though this achieves much more ambitious carbon reduction,” said Margaret Torn, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and senior author of the new study. “The main reason is that the cost of wind and solar power and batteries for electric vehicles have declined faster than expected.”