The U.S. can cut its carbon output to zero by the middle of the 21st century, according to a sweeping new Princeton University study. In such a “net-zero” scenario, the American carbon output would be equal to or lesser to the carbon pulled out of the atmosphere on U.S. soil.
But to get there, the country must start now.
American per-capita carbon emissions are the highest in the world, according to the World Bank, with the country emitting 17.6 tons (16 metric tons) of carbon for ever person in 2016. The U.S. is second only to China in its total contributions to climate change. President-elect Joe Biden campaigned on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. And according to the Princeton study, that goal is achievable and would even be cheaper than remaining on the economy’s current course. But urgent action is needed in the next decade to make it happen.
“We find that each net-zero pathway results in a net increase in energy-sector employment and delivers significant reductions in air pollution, leading to public health benefits that begin immediately in the first decade of the transition,” the authors wrote in the report, published Dec. 15 on the Princeton website. “The study also concludes that a successful net-zero transition could be accomplished with annual spending on energy that is comparable or lower as a percentage of GDP to what the nation spends annually on energy today.”