McKinsey: Fighting climate change is affordable

International consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has released a must-read study concluding:

The United States could reduce GHG emissions in 2030 by 3.0 to 4.5 gigatons of CO2e using tested approaches and high-potential emerging technologies. These reductions would involve pursuing a wide array of abatement options with marginal costs less than $50 per ton, with the average net cost to the economy being far lower if the nation can capture sizable gains from energy efficiency. Achieving these reductions at the lowest cost to the economy, however, will require strong, coordinated, economy-wide action that begins in the near future.

Yes — existing or in-the-pipeline technology can get us very far for the next quarter century (duh!).

Previously McKinsey had released a comprehensive cost curve for global greenhouse gas reduction measures (reprinted below, original article here), which came to the stunning conclusion that the measures needed to stabilize emissions at 450 pppm have a net cost near zero (the negative-cost efficiency measures just about compensating for the higher cost fuel switching).

[This makes a great powerpoint slide for talks.]

A few key points on the new study:

  • The “3.0 to 4.5 gigatons of CO2e” cut in 2030 is against a projected rise in emissions from 7.2 GT in 2005 to 9.7 GT in 2030, which means that instead of a 2.5 GT rise, we could have a 0.5 to 2.0 GT absolute reduction from 2005 to 2010.
  • “McKinsey worked with leading companies, industry experts, academics, and environmental NGOs to develop a detailed, consistent fact base estimating costs and potentials of … more than 250 options, encompassing efficiency gains, shifts to lower-carbon energy sources, and expanded carbon sinks.”
  • “Improving energy efficiency in the buildings-and-appliances and industrial sectors, for example, could (assuming substantial barriers can be addressed) offset some 85% of the projected incremental demand for electricity in 2030, largely negating the need for the incremental coal-fired power plants assumed in the government reference case.”