John McCain’s carbon targets

In a speech delivered in Oregon, John McCain laid out some targets for reducing American greenhouse gas emissions:

  • 2012: Return emissions to 2005 levels (18 percent above 1990 levels)
  • 2020: Return emissions to 1990 levels (15 percent below 2005 levels)
  • 2030: 22 percent below 1990 levels (34 percent below 2005 levels)
  • 2050: 60 percent below 1990 levels (66 percent below 2005 levels)

These targets look pretty similar to the ones adopted by the present Canadian government: a peak in emissions by 2012, a reduction to 20% below 2006 levels by 2020, and a 60-70% reduction below 2006 levels by 2050.

Stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations below 550ppm probably requires more aggressive action. That being said, this is not a terrible place from which to begin negotiations: both between presidential candidates in the United States and between the United States and other countries. If the US was willing to commit to those targets unilaterally (and do so with a credible plan for actually achieving them), it might become a lot easier to get countries like China and India to begin making a more substantial contribution to the mitigation effort.

In exchange, the United States could adopt the kind of targets (and supplemental actions, like aid in preventing tropical deforestation) that are actually required to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at a level around 450ppm, thus keeping total global temperature change in the realm of two degrees Celsius.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

4 thoughts on “John McCain’s carbon targets”

  1. Of course, McCain also says that these targets are achievable without regulation or taxation of any kind. I guess it just shows how far you can get in American politics by assuming that the electorate is dumber than a sack of hammers.

  2. I agree.

    It is easy to set targets that politicians decades hence will need to meet (or forget about). It is a lot harder to start implementing changes that may be politically unpopular.

    A goal without a plan amounts to very little.

  3. “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

    Douglas Adams

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