May 29, 2019

The policy and politics of cutting CO2

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A new report has good news and bad news for anyone hoping that the U.S. can steeply cut greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.

Driving the news: The nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has released a set of 3 pathways for how the U.S. could cut economy-wide emissions by 80% (relative to 2005 levels) by mid-century.

Why it matters: Right now, climate politics are unexpectedly hot, but federal policymaking is largely frozen. But that could change with the 2020 elections, and states are already a hotbed of activity.

  • The report is a detailed new addition to the world of scenario planning.
  • It involves input from a suite of companies, as well as collaboration with the RAND Corp. and the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland.

The big picture: "Decarbonizing the U.S. economy requires fundamental shifts in the ways we generate energy, produce goods, deliver services, and manage lands," it states.

The intrigue: Here's the glass half-full (or empty) part. There are multiple ways to get there, and the report looks widely at not just federal actors, but also the contributions of state and local governments, corporate decisions, tech development and consumer preferences.

  • But 2 of the major pathways involve significant new federal policies — around carbon pricing and more — to varying degrees, which is obviously no certain thing.
  • The one that envisions the most aggressive federal role includes implementing an economy-wide CO2 price in 2024 starts at $40 per ton and rises 8% annually, tougher power and vehicle emissions rules, and substantially ramped up spending on low-CO2 tech R&D and deployment.

What's next: Reports on policy always force the question of what's actually feasible, which brings me to something else on my screen.

Over at Vox, David Roberts looks at how Democrats, if they gain the Senate and White House in 2020, might use the complicated process known as budget reconciliation to advance climate policy.

  • This could be key because legislation moved under reconciliation is immune from filibusters, and Democrats have essentially no chance of having a filibuster-proof majority even if they gain the upper chamber.
  • But Senate rules impose all kinds of constrains on what measures can be fit under the reconciliation umbrella.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 932,605 — Total deaths: 46,809 — Total recoveries: 193,177Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 213,372 — Total deaths: 4,757 — Total recoveries: 8,474Map.
  3. Business updates: Very small businesses are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus job crisis.
  4. World update: Spain’s confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far. More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.
  5. State updates: Florida and Pennsylvania are the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders — Michigan has more than 9,000 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,200 and 78 new deaths in 24 hours.
  6. Stock market updates: Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: Spain's health care system overloaded

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Two planes with protective equipment arrived to restock Spain’s overloaded public health system on Wednesday as confirmed cases surpassed 100,000 and the nation saw its biggest death toll so far, Reuters reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 900,000 and the global death toll surpassed 45,000 early Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

FBI sees record number of gun background checks amid coronavirus

Guns on display at a store in Manassas, Va. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Driving the news: The spike's timing suggests it may be driven at least in part by the coronavirus.