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Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 could be “surprisingly feasible,” with costs running $1 per day per person or just 0.4% of the U.S GDP, according to a new report from the University of San Francisco, the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and consulting firm Evolved Energy Research.
No matter which decarbonization strategy the U.S. ultimately adopts, technical limitations in other fields mean the electricity sector must be among the first to pursue aggressive decarbonization, eliminating 65-70% of its emissions by 2035, according to Jim Williams, the paper’s lead author and an associate professor at the University of San Francisco.
Despite the need for carbon-free electricity, excessively ambitious decarbonization targets could actually undermine the nation’s success. “If you look at the reality of what that would entail on the ground, the impact would be such that I would anticipate any policy that pushes that change along would swiftly face blowback and ultimately be abandoned,” said Ryan Jones, co-founder of Evolved Energy Research. “That is the worst outcome in terms of this transition.”