Do you want to leave a better world for your children? Cutting American citizens carbon emissions to a level the world can cope with

Currently, USA emits around 15% of the world’s emissions, however given only 4% of the world’s population live there, on average the emissions of Americans are almost 4 times global average. 

Of course the whole point, is that global emissions are too high, and are causing climate change, so therefore must fall by around ¾ over the next decade (on average), which means Americans must reduce their average emissions by 15/16th or 94% to hit average acceptable emissions per person in the world-of we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

To compare, the UK hosts roughly 1% of the world’s population and emits roughly 1% of the world’s emissions, so the UK most only reduce emissions by 75% (still a daunting task).

How could America do this in theory? 

Well, currently 27% of USA emissions go on electricity generation. Assuming vast (I mean huge) increases in solar, wind and other near 0 carbon electricity generation, and huge batteries to store the energy, these emissions could be eliminated. This would be an expensive endeavour, but America could afford it (simply by reducing military spending, if the money can be found no where else). Let’s assume 1% of current emissions annually for replacement of old/damaged equipment. This would cut USA carbon emissions by 26%.

Currently the biggest emissions sector is transport accounting for 28% of USA emissions. Of this, 59% of emissions come from light duty vehicles (essentially cars) and 23% from heavy duty (lorries etc). A further 2% comes from trains-impressively low, however, by electrifying the entire network (and coupled with the above greening of the electricity grid) let’s assume we can reduce this to essentially 0 (of the huge area on top of trains was covered in solar, possibly they could become carbon negative?). Ships and boats have belatedly started trying to cut their emissions, currently 2%, let’s conservatively say they half emissions to 1%. There is much with being done on aircraft to cut their emissions, but most estimates suggest mass transit carbon neutral flight is decades away, so I am going to assume any efficiency gains cancel out increases in number of aeroplanes (big assumption, but still). This gives us an 85% reduction on the sectors 28% -reducing transport to 4.2% of USA emissions.

So by radically greening the grid (Tesla solar roofing, solar panels on all available roof etc), and replacing all cars lorries buses etc with electric powered versions, we can cut USA emissions roughly in half.

Of course, by covering almost all roofs in solar panels, and installing huge batteries, replacing gas boilers with efficient electric we can largely eliminate residential emissions which are currently 12%. Let’s say we cut this to 2% of USA emissions. This means we have found 65% cuts.

This leaves roughly 30% cuts needed from industry and agriculture. Unfortunately as their sectors only emit 32% of USA emissions they need to cut by more than 90%. However, customers are regularly demanding cuts from industry, so this figure has been falling fast. With agriculture, better chemicals use and changes in animal diet, significant cuts are readily available (for instance a large source of emissions from farms is cows methane emissions, I have written in the past about 2 schemes, the first was methane capture from the cows, for use on the farm, the other was a seaweed additive which dramatically reduced cow methane emissions naturally.

While some of the items on this list are expensive, they are well within the reach of the wealthiest nation on earth. Americans must recognise their responsibility to the rest of the world, and lead the way, if only to make up for the horrific performance over trump’s (hopefully) single term in office.

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