In December 2018, Xcel Energy announced its intention to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels company-wide by 2030, and to provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050. These goals are aggressive, but are they consistent with reductions that would need to be made globally to achieve current international targets of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less? We looked into this question by comparing the Xcel Energy goals to studies by climate researchers of how much and how fast greenhouse gas emissions would have to be reduced in order to limit warming to 2 degrees C. The issue is not straightforward because emissions associated with one company in one country are just a fraction of global emissions. Nonetheless we found that the goals represent reductions that are consistent with, and in most cases larger than, those that occur in scenarios that achieve the 2 degree climate target.
Brian O’Neill is a Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He also serves as Director of Research at the Korbel School’s Pardee Center for International Futures. Brian holds a Ph.D. in Earth Systems Science and an M.S. in Applied Science, both from New York University. His research interests are in human-environment interactions, in particular the relationship between future societal development, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change impacts. He has led research groups on Integrated Assessment Modeling and on Climate and Human Systems at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and on Population and Climate Change at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Brian is a Convening Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s ongoing Sixth Assessment Report. He is also the lead author of Population and Climate Change, published by Cambridge University Press.
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