Achieving the Paris Climate Goals for OECD North America

In 2018, the IPCC made clear that the world must be kept below 1.5°C global average temperature rise. The special report Global Warming of 1.5°C showed that it becomes increasingly difficult to solve climate change beyond this threshold, and every tenth of a degree increase in temperature risks multiplying impacts. Some believe the 1.5°C goal can only be achieved through large-scale implementation of risky or expensive technologies, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), direct air capture (DAC), or solar radiation management (SRM). These technologies may play a role in the future, but they cannot be relied upon to solve the current climate crisis.

A groundbreaking climate modeling framework, published in the book Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals (APCAG), shows that it is still possible to stay below 1.5°C with widely available, rapidly scalable solutions. The effort was the culmination of a two-year collaboration with 17 leading scientists at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), two institutes at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the University of Melbourne’s Climate & Energy College. The book was released by the prestigious scientific publisher Springer Nature and is now the most downloaded climate text in the publisher’s history.

In order to create a global decarbonization model to achieve the 1.5°C goal, a sophisticated computer simulation of the world’s electrical grids was created with 10 regional and 72 sub-regional energy grids modeled in hourly increments to the year 2050, along with a comprehensive assessment of regionally available renewable resources like wind and solar, minerals required for manufacturing of components, energy efficiency measures, and configurations for meeting projected energy demand and electricity storage for all sectors through 2050. Below are the results for the North America energy transition:

In order for North America to achieve the goal of 1.5°C, an ambitious energy efficiency program is required. Wind and solar power generation will be the backbone of the power supply, supplemented by hydropower and concentrated solar power (CSP). There is a high potential for CSP in Mexico and the southern USA. There is also a high potential for offshore wind to power the coastal regions, supporting the production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels for the transport sector. After 2030, natural gas power plants will switch to renewable-produced methane and/or hydrogen, reusing the natural gas infrastructure already in place. Electromobility and hydrogen trucks and buses should enter the market earlier and faster than other regions. Biofuels will bridge the gap, providing carbon-neutral fuels until more powertrain technologies dominate the vehicle market. Mouse over the charts below at 5-year increments to see data points for each transition.

This region includes the United States of America, Canada, and Mexico. To explore the global transition model read the APCAG Executive Briefing.

OECD North America

OECD North America Electrification of the three major sectors -- transportation, industry, and buildings/other -- required to achieve the 1.5°C goal per Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals (Teske, 2019). Credit: University of Southern California Marshall MS Business Analytics Program

OECD North America

OECD North America Expansion of renewable energy delivery required to achieve the 1.5°C goal per Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals (Teske, 2019). Lower curves show renewable electricity generation. Upper curves show renewable heating sources and renewable fuels. Credit: University of Southern California Marshall MS Business Analytics Program