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It’s possible to reach net-zero carbon emissions. Here’s how.

Jan 28, 2023   |   Science News

Cutting carbon emissions to curb climate change is possible but not easy. Dartmouth Engineering Professor Erin Mayfield, who worked on an influential 2021 report from Net-Zero America project, which focused on the U.S. economy, recently spoke to Science News about how the world can forge a path forward towards zero carbon emissions.

Yet there is hope, according to Science News. The rate of growth in CO2 emissions is slowing globally — down from 3 percent annual growth in the 2000s to half a percent annual growth in the last decade, according to the Global Carbon Project, which quantifies greenhouse gas emissions.

"There are signs annual emissions could start shrinking. And over the last two years, the United States, by far the biggest cumulative contributor to global warming, has passed several pieces of federal legislation that include financial incentives to accelerate the transition to clean energy. “We’ve never seen anything at this scale,” Erin Mayfield, whose research focuses on energy at Dartmouth, told Science News.

Though the energy transition will require many new technologies, such as innovative ways to permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere, many of the solutions, such as wind and solar power, are in hand — “stuff we already have," says Mayfield.

"Renewables, far and wide, are the key pillar in any net-zero scenario."

Erin Mayfield, Hodgson Family Assistant Professor of Engineering

Transforming how we produce and use energy, as rapidly as possible, is a tremendous challenge — but one that we can meet head-on. For Mayfield, getting to net-zero by 2050 is a realistic goal for the United States. “I think it’s possible,” she says. “But it doesn’t mean there’s not a lot more work to be done.”

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