On March 20, the IPCC will release its final report in a series of climate science assessments.
IPCC reports cover how and why our planet is changing, and what can be done about it.
We map state-level progress relative to the national climate goal to reduce planet-warming emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
We review the top-emitting sectors across all 50 states—electric power, transport, industry, and agriculture—and key climate solutions for each.
We also highlight examples of climate solutions in action at the city, state, and regional levels.
Global climate change, local climate solutions
On March 20, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the final installment in a series of global scientific assessments. The next major IPCC report isn’t expected until 2028.
The recent series of IPCC reports establishes, with higher confidence than ever before, how and why our planet is changing—and what can be done about it.
Some key findings of IPCC reports released in 2021 and 2022 include:
Global temperatures were 1.1°C (2° F) higher in 2011–2020 than 1850–1900.
It is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”
Limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C will require global emissions to peak by 2025 at the latest—and “deep, rapid and sustained emissions reductions” throughout 2030–2050.
Exceeding 1.5°C (2.7°F) of global warming would cause unavoidable increases in climate hazards and related risks to natural ecosystems, human health, and livelihoods.
Climate solutions in the U.S.
Every tenth of a degree of avoided warming counts toward a safer future, and nearly 200 countries have joined the Paris Agreement to limit warming. The U.S. has set national goals to reduce emissions 50% (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030, and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Although the U.S. has reduced emissions by about 1% per year since 2005, this pace is not fast enough to meet national targets by 2030. Reaching these targets requires action at the state and local levels.
Climate solutions in every state
Beyond national climate goals, 22 states have official clean energy goals, and 33 states have Climate Action Plans.
States reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 19% from 2005 to 2020, but trends vary among states.
The five top-emitting states have seen a range of emissions trends since 2005: Texas (-0.6%), California (-19%), Florida (-15%), Pennsylvania (-24%), and Ohio (-31%).
Climate solutions in top-emitting sectors in each state
There are dozens of options to reduce emissions in any sector of the economy. And each state has a different mix of emissions sources, requiring tailored climate solutions.
Here, we highlight key solutions identified in recent IPCC assessments as having relatively high potential to cut global emissions by 2030. We focus on the top-emitting sectors in each of the 50 states: electric power, transport, industry, and agriculture. (Although the commercial and residential sector accounts for 13% of emissions nationwide, it doesn’t rank as the top-emitting sector in any state and is therefore not included below.)
Accounting for a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the electric power sector generates and distributes electricity to homes, businesses, factories, electric vehicles, and farming operations.
About 97% of U.S. electric power emissions come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to produce electricity. Burning fossil fuels produces CO2—a planet-warming greenhouse gas.
Key climate solutions for electric power:
Boosting wind and solar energy: Wind and solar have increased in capacity and fallen in price since 2000—trends that are projected to continue, expanding low-carbon renewable electricity.
WeatherPower: 2022 in Review assesses U.S. wind and solar growth from 2021 to 2022.
Reducing electricity demand: Increasing building density, efficient heating and ventilation, and energy conservation in homes and businesses can all reduce electricity demand.
Learn more in Climate Central’s Solutions Series: Creating Climate-Friendly Homes.
Increasing energy efficiency: Substituting less carbon-intensive fuels in power plants and shifting generation to lower-emitting plants.
Signs of progress: National electric power emissions decreased about 40% from 2005 to 2020, mainly due to replacing coal-fired electricity with less carbon-intensive fuels, and wind and solar growth.
Moving people and goods on vehicles, trains, ships, and planes accounts for 27% of total U.S. emissions.
About 97% of U.S. transportation emissions come from CO2 produced during the combustion of fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel in internal combustion engines—mostly in cars and trucks.
Key climate solutions for transportation:
Reducing transport demand: Options include telecommuting, carpooling, and encouraging active transportation with bike lanes and pedestrian paths.
Fuel-efficient and electric vehicles: New vehicle CO2 emissions fell 25% since 2004 as fuel economy increased. Further increasing fuel efficiency and promoting battery electric vehicles charged with low-carbon electricity are key climate solutions.
Learn more in Climate Central’s Solutions Series: Electric Vehicles.
Making cities walkable and bikeable: Compact urban design and accessible, low-carbon public transit can shrink commuting distances and transport-related emissions in and around cities.
Signs of progress: The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, launched in January 2023, lays out strategies to shift toward a more sustainable nationwide transportation system.
Agriculture accounts for about 11% of total U.S. emissions. These emissions mostly come from: soil and crop management practices (especially excess fertilizer use resulting in nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions) and raising livestock (which produce methane, or CH4).
Key climate solutions for agriculture:
Capturing carbon in soils: Cover crops, managed grazing, and other practices can stabilize soils, promote soil ecosystems, and boost carbon storage on croplands and pastures.
Learn more in Climate Central’s Solutions Series: Capturing Carbon in Soil.
Climate-smart farming strategies can reduce agricultural emissions of nitrous oxide (by avoiding over-application of fertilizers) and methane (by optimizing livestock feed to reduce methane from enteric fermentation).
Learn more in Climate Central’s Solutions Series: Cutting Methane Emissions.
Demand management involves encouraging a shift toward sustainable healthy diets, and reducing food waste.
Signs of progress: Although agricultural emissions in the U.S. have increased (1.4%) since 2005, opportunities for farmers and ranchers to receive payments for capturing carbon in soils are expanding.
Accounting for 24% of total U.S. emissions, the industrial sector produces goods and raw materials such as steel, cement, concrete, feedstock chemicals, minerals, and paper.
Industrial emissions primarily come from CO2 produced during combustion of fossil fuels used to power factories and machinery. Other emissions leak from gas and oil systems or are generated during chemicals, metals, and cement production.
Key climate solutions for industry:
Switching to clean fuels that produce low or zero emissions (e.g., renewable energy, hydrogen, biofuels) is a major opportunity to reduce industrial emissions.
Boost energy efficiency: Globally, the energy intensity per ton of extracted materials fell 20% from 2000–2019. Further energy efficiency gains will continue to be a key climate solution.
Circular material use: Ramping up recycling and other circular practices that keep materials in use for as long as possible can reduce waste and material and energy demand.
Signs of progress: Nationwide, industrial emissions fell 7.2% from 2005 to 2020.
LOCAL STORY ANGLES
Check your state’s official climate goals and progress.
Is yours among the 22 states with official clean energy goals, the 24 states in the U.S. Climate Alliance, or the 33 states with Climate Action Plans? Search State Climate Policy Maps or the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency for the status of climate action in all 50 states. State Climate Scorecards track each state’s progress toward official climate goals, broken out by sector.
Solutions in action: Electric Power
Regional initiatives such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which includes 12 eastern states, are designed to cut regional power plant emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was signed into law in August 2022 and contains $369 billion to boost clean energy and cut emissions. The IRA can help states cut electricity-related emissions in part through tax credits and incentives that help homes and businesses install solar, battery systems, and energy-efficient appliances.
Solutions in action: Transport
The IRA (learn more here) provides discounts on electric vehicle (EV) purchases. All 50 states have submitted infrastructure plans in an effort to build out the nation’s EV charging network. See how Texas and California, the two states with the highest transportation emissions, are expanding public transit. Over half of the 100 largest U.S. cities have climate action plans that emphasize land use and transport, and 34 of these incorporate justice into their plans for this sector.
Solutions in action: Agriculture
The IRA allocates $19.5 billion over five years to support climate-smart agricultural practices. The USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities announced $3 billion in funding for 141 projects that advance climate-smart agriculture—including at universities and organizations in Idaho, South Dakota, Iowa, and Arkansas. It remains to be seen how climate solutions may be included in the 2023 Farm Bill.
Solutions in action: Industry
The Advanced Industries Facilities Deployment Program, announced March 2023, provides $6 billion to decarbonize energy-intensive industrial facilities. Use EPA’s interactive GHGRP Fact Sheets to see current emissions from large industrial facilities by state, region, or on tribal lands. The states with the highest industrial emissions—Louisiana and Texas—are expanding solar and “green hydrogen” fuel.
Alan Jenn, PhD
Associate Professional Researcher
University of California Davis
Relevant expertise: sustainable transportation, electric vehicles
Claudia Diezmartínez, M.Phil.
Relevant expertise: urban climate change mitigation
*Available for interviews in Spanish and English
Submit a request to SciLine from the American Association for the Advancement of Science or to the Climate Data Concierge from Columbia University. These free services rapidly connect journalists to relevant scientific experts.
Browse maps of climate experts and services at regional NOAA, USDA, and Department of the Interior offices.
Explore databases such as 500 Women Scientists, BIPOC Climate and Energy Justice PhDs, and Diverse Sources to find and amplify diverse expert voices.
Reach out to your State Climate Office or the nearest Land-Grant University to connect with scientists, educators, and extension staff in your local area.
State and national greenhouse gas emissions estimates for 2020 as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks.