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Adapted from an Energy Innovation report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Putting U.S. carbon emissions on a steep downward path would cost plenty of money. But waiting to act is way more expensive, a new analysis out this morning concludes.

Driving the news: The research firm Energy Innovation modeled two policy scenarios for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, a common target for limiting the amount of future warming.

  • One scenario starts aggressive efforts now, the other that waits until 2030.
  • "The longer we wait, the more drastic the [emissions] cuts — and associated costs — will be," the firm notes.

How it works: The analysis looks at changes in capital and operational costs in the country's energy system, as well as fuel spending, as a way to represent the costs of policy packages.

  • Their metric aims to capture net expenditures by government, consumers and industry in areas including power infrastructure, vehicle purchases, heat equipment and more.
  • The two scenarios explored spending and policy costs in areas like fuel economy and zero-carbon power standards, battery deployment, building efficiency, industrial fuel changes and more.

The big picture: The cumulative costs of the 2030 scenario are 72% higher on a net present value basis.

  • "In addition to accumulating higher costs, delaying climate action requires astounding rates of clean energy deployment and buildout of manufacturing capacity."
  • Other costs stem from "stranded assets," the report finds. Continued build-out of fossil fuel-powered industrial plants and equipment, followed by a seismic shift starting in 2030, means "we will need to retire much more polluting equipment before the end of its functional life. And that isn’t cheap."

What we're watching: The Biden administration plans to ask Congress for lots of money to boost the deployment of low-carbon energy and climate-friendly infrastructure.

  • It is also planning a suite of new executive regulations aimed at cutting emissions.

Of note: The analysis and chart above is only about costs. It does not consider benefits from speeding up the energy transition, such as the health effects of air pollution abatement.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Feb 2, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Big emissions pledges are off to a rocky start

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ambitious long-term emissions targets are now pretty commonplace for big emitting nations, but two things highlight the deep disconnect between the goals and getting on a path to achieve them.

Driving the news: A new BloombergNEF analysis looks at climate policies in G20 economies that would actually spur implementation of measures consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

56 mins ago - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

The new digital extortion

Shoshana Gordon/Axios

If you run a hospital, a bank, a utility or a city, chances are you'll be hit with a ransomware attack. Given the choice between losing your precious data or paying up, chances are you'll pay.

Why it matters: Paying the hackers is the clear short-term answer for most organizations hit with these devastating attacks, but it's a long-term societal disaster, encouraging hackers to continue their lucrative extortion schemes.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC mask guidance sparks confusion, questions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CDC's surprise guidance last week freeing the fully vaccinated to go maskless sowed plenty of concerns across the country— even earning the "Saturday Night Live" treatment for all the questions it spurred.

Why it matters: With plenty of Americans still unvaccinated — and without any good way to confirm who has been vaccinated — some experts worry this could put many at increased risk.