4 Ways the U.S. Can Rapidly Reduce Carbon Emissions and Grow the Economy
Today I testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at a hearing called “Road to Paris: Examining the President’s International Climate Agenda and Implications for Domestic Environmental Policy.” The goal of the hearing was to examine the many ways in which the U.S. can achieve its commitment to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. But there was also a bigger message that went beyond mere logistics: The country can not only achieve its 2025 climate goals—doing so will actually create economic and quality-of-life benefits.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Four reasons illustrate why it’s in the U.S.’s own interests to meet its 2025 target and reduce emissions even more so in the long-term:
1. A growing body of evidence shows that economic growth can go hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S. has tackled many environmental problems over the past 50 years, and the historical record is clear: environmental protection is compatible with economic growth, and environmental policies have delivered huge benefits to Americans. Furthermore, recent experience at the state and national levels demonstrates that well-designed policies can reduce emissions while providing overall net public benefits, for example, through improved public health, as well as direct financial benefits to businesses and consumers.
Policies are often necessary to unlock these opportunities, however, because market barriers hamper investment in what are otherwise beneficial activities. We can achieve a low-carbon future by harnessing key drivers of economic growth—including more efficient use of energy and natural resources, smart infrastructure investments and technological innovation. Our efforts to address conventional air and water pollution have often relied on end-of-smokestack or end-of-pipe controls. However, in the case of carbon pollution, the solutions typically lie in improved efficiency in energy use, cleaner fuels, and new technologies and processes –solutions that often create net economic benefits. For example:
- With strengthened fuel economy standards, drivers will save on average a net $3,400 to $5,000 over the life of light-duty vehicles made in 2025 compared with those made in 2016.
- Federal appliance efficiency standards put into place over the past 25 years have resulted in $370 billion in cumulative utility bill savings for consumers.
- States with energy efficiency target programs in place are saving customers generally $2 for every $1 invested.
2. The U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2025 is ambitious but achievable.
The Obama administration set a goal to reduce overall emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Recent WRI research finds that can meet this target using existing federal laws combined with state actions.
However, U.S. and global efforts to combat climate change cannot stop in 2025. Even deeper emissions reductions will be needed in the decades ahead to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In the years ahead, Congress can play a constructive role to reduce emissions in a cost-effective manner, such as by establishing an economy-wide price on carbon. In the meantime, the administration is taking sensible steps to reinforce recent market and technology trends that move us toward a low-carbon future.
3. We can achieve the 2025 target while generating multiple co-benefits and maintaining economic growth.
The proposed Clean Power Plan will reduce power sector emissions and act as key policy for meeting the 2025 greenhouse gas emissions target. It will also reduce particulate pollution and ozone, leading to reductions in premature deaths, heart attacks, asthma attacks, hospital admissions, and missed school and work days. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that these air pollution co-benefits alone are worth $25-62 billion, far more than the estimated $7-9 billion in compliance costs. Adding in global climate benefits increases total benefits to $55-93 billion. And the economy will keep growing. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects the macroeconomic impacts of the proposed Clean Power Plan to be very small—approximately a 0.12 percent decrease in GDP in 2030, in the context of an economy projected to grow from $17 trillion currently to $24 trillion in 2030. EIA’s projected net employment impacts are essentially zero.
4. U.S. leadership is essential to global climate efforts.
Scientists agree that limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is necessary to prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change. Failure to meet that goal will increase economic, social and environmental risks for the U.S. and all nations. Our communities are already experiencing the consequences of more frequent and severe climate-change related events. The costs to businesses, consumers and public health will continue to mount if the U.S. and other countries fail to reduce emissions.
The world experienced the hottest year on record in 2014. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. In the U.S., some regions are experiencing a higher frequency of flooding, heavier precipitation events, and more frequent heat waves and wildfires. Our American citizens’ lives and livelihoods are at risk. We can’t simply ask: How much does it cost to avoid climate change? We must also ask: What does it cost our country if we don’t avoid climate change? If nations fail to combat climate change, the U.S. will suffer billions of dollars of damages to agriculture, forestry and fisheries; significant coastal and inland flooding; and heat-driven increases in electricity bills, among other multiple impacts.
Our country has a choice: It can show international leadership and bring the same spirit of competition, ingenuity and innovation to the climate challenge that it has brought to solving other problems. Or, it can be left behind as other countries develop the solutions and capture the markets for the fuels, technologies and processes that reduce greenhouse emissions.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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