Forks in the Road

8 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2020 Last revised: 26 Mar 2020

See all articles by Michael P. Vandenbergh

Michael P. Vandenbergh

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Jonathan M. Gilligan

Vanderbilt University - Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment

Date Written: February 24, 2020

Abstract

This Essay provides a simple heuristic to enable public and private policymakers to focus on the most important climate mitigation options. Policymakers face a blizzard of information, advocacy, and policy options, and it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Many options are attractive on the surface but will not meaningfully address the problem or are unlikely to be adopted in the foreseeable future. If policymakers make the right decision when confronting three essential choices or forks in the road, though, the result will be 60% to 70% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, an amount that will keep widely-adopted climate mitigation goals in reach. The three options are decarbonization of the electrical grid, electrification of the motor vehicle fleet, and electrification of buildings. International, national, and subnational officials, philanthropists, corporate executives, advocacy group leaders, and households have the ability to prioritize these three options in their regulatory, purchasing, and other actions. If they make the right choice on these three options, many other mistakes can be made without jeopardizing the chance to achieve widely adopted emissions targets. If they make the wrong choice, few combinations of other viable options can achieve the needed reductions. In the face of a growing consensus that major, prompt emissions reductions are required, the forks in the road approach can provide policymakers with the mental framework necessary to make smart decisions and ignore the noise surrounding climate law and policy.

Suggested Citation

Vandenbergh, Michael P. and Gilligan, Jonathan M., Forks in the Road (February 24, 2020). Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 20-15, Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3543639 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3543639

Michael P. Vandenbergh (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

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Jonathan M. Gilligan

Vanderbilt University - Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://https://www.jonathangilligan.org/

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering ( email )

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Nashville, TN 37240
United States

Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

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