The Urgency of Preventing Legislators Who Are Climate Deniers From Blocking US Federal and State Legislation Establishing A Zero Co2e Emissions Target

There appears to be agreement among many US government officials who have concluded that the climate emergency requires the US and state governments to commit to achieve by a date certain net zero CO2e emissions and to have the commitment in place by the next climate COP in the United Arab Emirates this fall.

The United States and several US state governments have already announced net zero reduction targets to be achieved by a specific date.  However, there may be  a problem in finalizing these commitments in light of  the previous history of legislators with ties to fossil fuel interests who blocked proposed  significant targets of the executive branch which were created to establish  meaningful GHG reduction targets. For instance a recent PBS Frontline series on the Power of Big Oil described how legislators blocked proposed Obama and Biden targets.


Climate change warrants governments establishing a zero ghg reduction target not  only to comply with a government’s obligations under the Paris Agreement but also to prevent atmospheric CO2e concentrations from rising.  It is atmospheric CO2  concentrations which has been causing climate loss and damages..

The following chart helps visualize the relationship between CO2 emissions and CO2 atmospheric concentrations rise .

The following chart depicts the long-lived retention of CO2 in the atmosphere, a fact which has a profound significance for policy-making. Although approximately 80% of the CO2 emissions are removed by the ocean, forests, and other global carbon sinks in about 100 years, some of the emitted CO2 persists for tens of thousands of years.
(Yale Climate Connections, 2010)
A carbon sink is any reservoir, natural or constructed, of carbon that absorbs more carbon than it releases. Globally the most important carbon sinks are vegetation, the ocean, and soils. Because the health of carbon sinks affects the atmospheric concentration of CO2e and because carbon sinks can become less effective sinks or carbon sources in a warming world or upon a government’s failure to protect sinks, a government’s management of carbon sinks is an important element of its climate change response.
Working with others on a new Handbook on Applied Climate Ethics revealed that many who are experts in their field got their initial ethical analysis wrong because they did not understand that climate change had features that were different than other more familiar environmental problems such as air pollution.

Climate change is causing “Between 1970 and 2021, there were 11,778 reported disasters [worldwide] attributed to weather, climate, and water extremes. They caused 2,087,229 deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses.​ ”

Last week One Earth published a peer-reviewed analysis of the cost of all this damage, caused by the 21 largest fossil fuel companies around the world. They concluded that those decision-making executives of the fossil fuel industry have inflicted over $5.4 trillion in identifiable economic damages on the rest of us which, instead of paying for, they have greedily converted to their own profit(Yale Climate Connections, 2010)

Because a rise in atmospheric C02e is responsible for most climate harms being experienced around the world and all governments agreed to abide by the “no harm” rule in adopting the UNFCCC, some of the most horrendous climate impacts may have been partially  caused by developed countries.  However since the “no harm” rule is a provision of customary international law which means nations already have a legal obligation to use due diligence to prevent activities within their jurisdiction from harming others beyond their borders under the “no harm” rule.
In the meantime an increasing number of governments around the world have committed to achieve net zero CO2 emissions and the numbers are  growing rapidly.
 A growing coalition of countries, cities, businesses and other institutions are pledging to get to net-zero emissions. More than 70 countries, including the biggest polluters – China, the United States, and the European Union – have set a net-zero target, covering about 76% of global emissions. More than 3,000 businesses and financial institutions are working with the Science-Based Targets Initiative to reduce their emissions in line with climate science. And more than 1000 cities, over 1000 educational institutions, and over 400 financial institutions have joined the Race to Zero, pledging to take rigorous, immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030.
A UN website keeps track of global efforts to establish net zero ghg reduction targets /Net Zero Coalition | United Nations

When nations used economic instruments such as putting a price on carbon to achieve a target, nations frequently found out that that they had to supplement their mechanism with an  enforcable target to achieve their reduction goal. And so an increasing number of nations have made their targets legally enforceable by a date certain. For  a list of some countries that have made their target dates enforcable see Net Zero Coalition | United Nations


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