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

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
58 mins ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

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