Considerations for an 80% Reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions

In order to combat the anticipated risks of climate change, all the Democratic candidates and one Republican candidate (John McCain) for president have called for a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as part of their platform. The Democratic candidates have agreed upon the necessity of cutting CO2 emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels. Legislation in the Congress uses a lower threshold: America’s Climate Security Act (S.2191), recently introduced by Senators Joseph I. Lieberman (ID-CT) and John W. Warner (R-VA) and approved by the Committee on Environment and Public Works, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 63% below the 2005 level in 2050. (Carbon dioxide is only one of many greenhouse gases, but since it represents 84% of greenhouse gas emissions,2 the terms “greenhouse gases” and “carbon dioxide” are sometimes used interchangeably.)

This paper examines the result of drastic CO2 emissions reductions on individual Americans, using on-line emissions calculators. The results suggest that, barring introduction of new energy technology, only draconian cuts in living standards can achieve these emissions reductions.

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