State ballot measures on clean energy key to meeting UN climate goals

A solar farm system on the campus of Arizona State University in Phoenix. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images

In next week's midterm elections, Arizona and Nevada voters will decide whether to pass state ballot measures that would require electric utilities to invest in renewable and clean energy sources. If passed, these initiatives would work toward statewide goals of 50% renewable energy use by 2030.

Why it matters: According to a special report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Oct. 8, stringent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed to prevent potentially catastrophic impacts if the climate warms above 1.5°C, or 2.7°F. State and federal legislation is essential to reaching this global climate target.

To meet the goals outlined in the IPCC report, global industries — especially energy, construction and transportation — must make "unprecedented" changes to how they operate. In the U.S., that means increasing investment in renewable energy systems.

  • The current, relatively low price of fossil fuels increases the need for legislation to trigger investment in renewables, since shareholders often focus on near-term financial returns.
  • But some major companies with longer-term horizons have begun to lead the charge, with Google and Facebook both investing in renewable energy and integrating climate goals into their business models.

Reality check: Only four states have energy-focused initiatives, and energy continues to be a relatively unimportant issue for voters, behind the economy, security, health care and education. But to address energy-driven environmental challenges, local, state, federal and even international authorities need to be aligned in pursuing climate-positive policies. Should these initiatives pass in November, they could serve as a catalyst for future legislation and commitments to mitigate the effects of climate change in 2020 and beyond.

The big picture: While renewable energy initiatives like those on the ballot in Nevada and Arizona are critical to meeting the IPCC's climate targets, more than legislation is needed. In order to drive down renewable energy costs while at the same time guaranteeing an affordable energy supply, academics, researchers and technologists must also continue developing grid-scale energy storage, wind and solar power technologies, and electric transportation.

Aaron Bobick is the dean of Washington University in St. Louis’ School of Engineering and Applied Science.

What's next

⚖️ Live updates: Democrats close out their opening arguments

House managers wrapped up their three-day impeachment presentation with a direct appeal to the senators to think about the precedent their actions — or more notably their inaction — would have on democracy and Congress’ future ability to serve as a check on the president.

The close: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) anticipated attacks on him, other House managers, the Ukraine whistleblower, and the Bidens from Trump's team, which begins its defense of the president on Saturday. He appealed directly to GOP senators: “Real political courage does not come from disagreement with our opponents, but disagreeing with our friends and our own party.”

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020 - Politics

Death toll climbs in coronavirus outbreak

41 people have died from an outbreak of a coronavirus strain that originated in Wuhan, China, AP reports.

The latest: The respiratory illness has made its way to Europe, with France confirming three cases, Reuters reports. France's Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said Friday two patients are hospitalized in Paris. The other case is in the southwestern city of Bordeaux. They had returned from a trip that had a stop in Wuhan.

Go deeperArrowJan 20, 2020 - World

Lawyer alleges Giuliani associate recorded Trump comments on Ukrainian ambassador

Photo: Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The lawyer for Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate, claims there is a recording of President Trump saying former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch should be fired, the Daily Beast reports.

The latest: Parnas said on Friday that he has turned the recording over to the House Intelligence Committee, per the New York Times — as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) led House Democrats in laying out the case for impeaching Trump before the Senate.