8 – Climate Mitigation

Climatepedia is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse particular policies or positions. See About Us for more information. 

What role does technology play in solving the climate crisis, and what can economic policies do to harm or promote sustainability?

Climate Mitigation Overview

Drivers of Emissions (IPCC)

“Chapter 5 analyzes the anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emission trends until the present and the main drivers that explain those trends. The chapter uses different perspectives to analyze past GHG-emissions trends, including aggregate emissions ows and per capita emissions, cumulative emissions, sectoral emissions, and territory-based vs. con- sumption-based emissions…”

Read pg. 354-356 (Executive Summary), pg. 357 (Fig 5.1), pg. 358 (Fig 5.2), pg. 368 (Box 5.1), pg. 381-382 (Figs 5.18-19), pg. 384 (Box 5.3), pg. 396-397 (FAQs)

2014 • Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Climate Challenges Post-COVID-19

“A global crisis has shocked the world. It is causing a tragic number of deaths, making people afraid to leave home, and leading to economic hardship not seen in many generations. Its effects are rippling across the world…”

August 4, 2020 • Gates Notes

The Story of Solutions

Global Emissions Overview

“Where in the world does the average person emit the most carbon dioxide (CO2) each year? We can calculate the contribution of the average citizen of each country by dividing its total emissions by its population…”

Read sections: Per capita, annual, and cumulative CO2 emissions; CO2 emissions and prosperity; and CO2 intensity of economies

Published May 2017, revised Dec 2019 • Our World in Data 

The Story of Stuff

Energy Production and Distribution

U.S. electricity generation by source

“President Trump signed in March orders to reverse the previous administration’s energy policies, a move that he framed as ‘an end to the war on coal’ and that comes amid a drop in the fuel’s use…”

March 28, 2017 • Washington Post

Burn: How the grid works

Debunking The Unscientific Fantasy Of 100% Renewables

“Last week, twenty-one prominent scientists issued a sharp critique to one of their own. Mark Jacobson of Stanford said America could easily become 100% renewable by mid-century, but refused to acknowledge sound scientific principles in his research and address major errors pointed out by the scientific community…”

June 26, 2017 • Forbes

Practical Engineering: How Electricity Generation Really Works

TED-Ed: Can 100% renewable energy power the world?

 Key Mitigation Policies and Strategies

Interactive Sample of Emission Reduction Policies

“The United States is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions far too slowly to help avert the worst effects of global warming. But what would happen if the country adopted seven of the most ambitious climate policies already in place around the world…” 

Click on NYT hyperlink to access the page

February 13, 2019 • New York Times

Cap-and-Trade Basics

“Cap and trade is an approach that harnesses market forces to reduce emissions cost-effectively. Like other market-based strategies, it differs from ‘command-and-control’ approaches where the government sets performance standards or dictates technology choices for individual facilities...” 

Accessed August 2020 • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

More Carbon Stabilization “Wedges”

We already have the technology we need to take the world off the path toward dramatic climate change...”

Accessed August 2020 • Princeton Environmental Institute

Carbon Tax Basics

Under a carbon tax, the government sets a price that emitters must pay for each ton of greenhouse gas emissions they emit. Businesses and consumers will take steps, such as switching fuels or adopting new technologies, to reduce their emissions to avoid paying the tax...”

Accessed August 2020 • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Decarbonization Pathways: A Global Business Perspective

“Amid the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is rightly focused on protecting lives and livelihoods. Can we simultaneously strive to avoid the next crisis...” 

April 30, 2020 • McKinsey & Company

 Explore Issues by Sector

(Additional resources for each sector are available in the “Optional” section)





” ‘Fracking’ is short for ‘hydraulic fracturing” — it’s a process by which water, sand, and chemicals are injected underground at very high pressures to crack open rock layers and release the oil or gas trapped inside…”

July 30, 2015 • Vox

Nuclear Energy Explained

See part 2 and part 3 videos for more info.

Carbon Capture & Storage

“The clock is ticking, and greater ambition is needed. The scale of the challenge is unprecedented. The world economy is set to double in the next 20 years, while we need to cut our emissions by more than half in that time and become net-zero by mid-century…”

March 22, 2019 • World Economic Forum

Buildings, Business & Industry


Reconsidering LEED Buildings in the Era of Climate Change

“Twenty years ago, the U.S. Green Building Council piloted its LEED certification, which has reshaped architecture and real estate. But how much does it dent buildings’ energy use…”

June 5, 2018 • Bloomberg

Are Corporate Climate Commitments Legitimate

“You’re a CEO. You have the exciting chance to present onstage at a marquee climate action event. The catch is, you only can if your company is willing to make a big, bold climate commitment…”

January 10, 2020 • Fast Company

Carbon Emission Disclosures

“Disclose What Matters analyzes the sustainability disclosures of the world’s largest companies and finds that most companies are using comparable and industry-wide disclosure frameworks for reporting sustainability risks and opportunities…”

Download executive summary

August 15, 2018 • Ceres




Food waste has crucial climate impacts

“Food waste is a big deal. A really big deal. Thirty percent of the food produced globally is wasted every year. But hold onto your leftovers. In the U.S., it’s more – 40 percent…”

May 6, 2019 • Yale School of the Environment




Overview (Part I)

“People and goods are on the move faster and farther than ever. All that movement comes at a cost — not just the sticker price of a new car, train ticket or shipping bill, but also an environmental cost…”

October 16, 2019 • World Resources Institute

Overview (Part II)

“Mobility clearly is essential to economic growth, but in our carbon-based world moving people from place to place exacts a steep price. Consider just the United States. In 2017, the transportation sector accounted for 29% of the nation’s total emissions of 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e (the CO2 equivalent of an individual greenhouse gas)…”

September 22, 2019 • Yale School of the Environment

Agriculture, Forestry & Land Use


Climate Smart Agriculture

“Like many farmers, Anthony Wolimbwa finds himself worrying a good deal about the weather. But even among the ranks of people who earn their living through the land, Wolimbwa has extra reason for concern…”

April 26, 2016 • Pulitzer Center

Want to join in on our next discussion?

Apply now to participate in the next cohort of the Climatepedia Certificate Program. Share perspectives about these readings and the many different aspects of climate change with people around the world.

Optional Resources

Overview, Energy Basics & Policies




Types of Energy Sources and Production Processes

“Americans use a lot of energy in homes, in businesses, and in industry, and to travel and transport goods. There are four end-use sectors that purchase or produce energy for their own consumption and not for resale…”

Navigate modules with menu on right-hand side of screen

Accessed August 2020 • U.S. Energy Information Administration

If You Fix This, You Fix a Big Piece of the Climate Puzzle

“There’s no single solution for climate change, but there is one that would be more effective than others. What do you think it is…”

July 13, 2017 • New York Times

Clean Power Plan explained

“It’s easy enough to describe the basics of the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s sweeping new policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from America’s power plants. Heck, we can do it in a single paragraph…”

August 5, 2015 • Vox

Clean Power Plan update

“The administration’s new Affordable Clean Energy rule does little to speed the phaseout of carbon pollution…”

June 21, 2019 • Yale School of the Environment

The Political History of Cap and Trade

“How an unlikely mix of environmentalists and free-market conservatives hammered out the strategy known as cap-and-trade…”

August 2009 • Smithsonian Magazine

Update on California Cap and Trade

“California EPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld laid out plans for re-examining whether the program is likely to meet its goals for reducing greenhouse gases. It signals a shift in the administration’s attitude and reflects problems posed by the pandemic-caused recession…”

June 24, 2020 • Cal Matters

Low carbon development opportunities in informal settlements

“While the unregulated nature of the informal sector means that informal enterprises may not meet environmental regulations, the scale and nature of many informal economic activities mean that their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are very low or negligible…”

November 2018 • United Nations Human Settlements Programme


“A clean energy standard, sometimes also called a clean electricity standard, requires a percentage of retail electricity sales to come from low- and zero-carbon ‘clean’ electricity sources…”

March 2020 • Bipartisan Policy Center

Cap-and-Trade Challenges

“A clean energy standard, sometimes also called a clean electricity standard, requires a percentage of retail electricity sales to come from low- and zero-carbon ‘clean’ electricity sources…”

November 15, 2019 • Pro Publica

Carbon Tax Challenges

“Vincent Picard describes himself as a ‘militant ecologist.’ But when protesters took to the streets to express their rage over a planned…”

December 6, 2018 • New York Times


Global Energy Landscape

“Access to energy is a key pillar for human wellbeing, economic development and poverty alleviation. Ensuring everyone has sufficient access is an ongoing and pressing challenge for global development…”

Published 2015, Revised July 2018 • Our World in Data

Fact or Fiction: Natural Gas Will Reduce Global Warming Pollution

“Has burning natural gas instead of coal helped the U.S. economy decarbonize? It’s complicated…”

August 3, 2015 • Scientific American

Use of Energy

“Americans use a lot of energy in homes, in businesses, and in industry, and to travel and transport goods. There are four end-use sectors that purchase or produce energy for their own consumption and not for resale…”

Accessed August 2020 • U.S. Energy Information Administration

Natural Gas is Really Better than Coal

“When talking about climate change, not all fossil fuels are created equal. Burning natural gas, for instance, produces nearly half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy compared with coal. Natural gas is thus considered by many to be a ‘bridge fuel’ that can help nations lower carbon emissions while they transition more slowly from fossil fuels to renewable, carbon-neutral forms of energy…”

February 13, 2014 • Smithsonian Magazine

What Happened to Peak Oil

“Peak oil is the point at which global oil production peaks and can only go down. M. King Hubbert developed the theory of peak oil after observing this pattern in individual oil fields and then extrapolating these trends to the U.S., accurately predicting a peak in U.S. production by 1970…”

March 18, 2016 • Greentech Media

Hydro Challenges in China

“China is engaged in a push to build hydroelectric dams on a scale unprecedented in human history. While being touted for producing lower-emission electricity, these massive dam projects are wreaking havoc on river systems across China and Southeast Asia…”

November 4, 2013 • Yale School of the Environment

Fossil Fuel Electricity with No Pollution?

“The carbon-capture game is about to change…”

June 1, 2018 • Vox

India's Energy Crisis

“Can India modernize its manufacturing economy and supply electricity to its growing population without relying heavily on coal—and quite possibly destroying the global climate…”

October 7, 2015 • MIT Technology Review

Germany Runs up Against the Limit of Renewables

“Even as Germany adds lots of wind and solar power to the electric grid, the country’s carbon emissions are rising. Will the rest of the world learn from its lesson…”

May 24, 2016 • MIT Technology Review

Buildings, Business & Industry 

Guide to Life Cycle Thinking

“Absolutely everything that is created goes through a series of life cycle stages, from material extraction through to end of life. The scientific process of understanding what impacts occur as a result of the materials that move through our economy is called Life Cycle Assessment (or analysis, depends what country you are in)….”

March 5, 2018 • Medium

Living Building Challenge Standards

“The Living Building Challenge is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. People from around the world use our regenerative design framework to create spaces that, like a flower, give more than they take…”

Download and browse p.14-15 and p.18-69

Accessed August 2020 • International Living Future Institute

GHG Protocol Scope 3

“The GHG Protocol Corporate Standard classi es a company’s GHG emissions into three ‘scopes’. Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy. Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions (not included in scope 2) that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions…”

Accessed August 2020 • Greenhouse Gas Protocol

How green buildings can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

“The World Green Building Council’s Dominika Czerwinska outlines the many ways in which green buildings can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals…”

March 28, 2017 • Eco-Business

USGBC LEED Rating Systems

“We believe green buildings are the foundation of something bigger: helping people, and the communities and cities they reside in—safely, healthily and sustainably thrive…”

Accessed August 2020 • U.S. Green Building Council

LEED Green Neighborhoods

“From the looks of things today, you’d never know the Homes at Old Colony are a world apart from what they used to be…”

Accessed August 2020 • U.S. Green Building Council

Microsoft's astonishing climate change goals, explained

“You could be forgiven for missing it, given the surplus of news, but the past few years have seen a profusion of climate change commitments from big tech companies…”

June 30, 2020 • Vox




Trash in America: Moving From Destructive Consumption to a Zero-Waste System

“The United States produces an immense amount of waste. Natural resources are continually extracted to produce goods that are used in the U.S. – often only briefly – before they are thrown into landfills, incinerators or the natural environment…”

February 12, 2018 • Frontier Group

Waste not, want not – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

“It would be so easy to sit around all day complaining about climate change and global warming…”

October 29, 2015 • NASA

Plastic Pollution

“This is our main data entry on plastics, with a particular focus on its pollution of the environment…”

September 2018 • Our World in Data

Waste Banks

“When you’ve grown so used to tossing all manner of garbage into the trash bin, without giving a second thought to whether it is organic or non-organic waste, it’s easy to not care where your garbage ultimately ends up…”

December 19, 2013 • World Bank

Should We Recycle

“This is part two of our series on recycling. Part one is the origin story of why we started recycling. You should go listen. It involves the mafia…”

July 12, 2019 • NPR

Fashion's growing interest in recycling clothing

“As fashion scrambles to manage the waste involved in its production processes, such initiatives offer brands good press and potential profit…”

August 21, 2019 • Vogue




IPCC Overview

“Reducing global transport greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be challenging since the continuing growth in passenger and freight activity could outweigh all mitigation measures unless transport emissions can be strongly decoupled from GDP growth…”

2018 • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Bold Moves: Sustainable Cities Mobility Index 2017

“Mobility systems are key to the everyday functioning of a city. Arcadis’ 2017 Sustainable Cities Mobility Index, compiled in partnership with research rm, Cebr, tracks the overall performance of the mobility systems in 100 cities around the world…”

2017 • Arcadis

Bipartisan Gas Tax Roadmap

“The federal Highway Trust Fund, which supports the construction and maintenance of our nation’s highways and transit systems, is facing a cash flow crisis…”

January 30, 2020 • Bipartisan Policy Center

Future of Interstate Highway System

“Few things are more American than the Interstate Highway System. Conceived to facilitate commerce across state borders and connect the country, the Interstates are ingrained in how we commute, how we shop, and how we participate in society…”

December 14, 2018 • Eno Center for Transportation

Transit's Role in Environmental Sustainability

“Public transportation can help metropolitan areas meet national air quality standards by reducing overall vehicle emissions and the pollutants that create smog…”

Accessed August 2020 • Federal Transit Administration

How 'aggressive' railway expansion could cut emissions in eight charts

“Rail is among the most efficient and lowest emitting modes of transport, according to the IEA’s new report focusing on the opportunities it offers for energy and the environment…”

January 30, 2019 • Carbon Brief

Transit-Oriented Design

“NACTO’s publications provide a vital resource for practitioners, policy-makers, academics, and advocates alike…”

Review one of the guides listed

Accessed August 2020 • National Association of City Transportation Officials

This Green New Deal plan might save public transit from coronavirus

“It’s a surreal scene for city dwellers. Empty sidewalks, sparsely populated buses, and transit agencies pleading with passengers on social media not to ride them unless absolutely necessary…”

March 23, 2020 • Curbed

Agriculture, Forestry & Land Use


IPCC Overview

“Digitisation could change the game for agriculture in Africa. That’s a key message in a report recently released by an international institution that enhances smallholder farming in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries…”

July 11, 2019 • The Conversation

Agricultural Subsidies

“On May 6th, the United Nations released a summary of its Global Assessment on Biodiversity. The report finds that 23 percent of the world’s agricultural lands are less productive than five years ago, even though global food production has increased…”

July 2019 • Food Tank

Community Supported Agriculture

“People are signing up for CSAs in record numbers. Could the once-struggling model sustain small farms through hard times—and beyond…”

April 9, 2020 • Civil Eats

Reforestation is not necessarily about planting more trees

“A much less costly way to regenerate our forests and decrease carbon levels is to assist nature to do its job…”

January 18, 2020 • Al Jazeera

Shifting Cultivation

“Swidden agriculture is often viewed as a highly destructive practice. However, researchers have found that swidden may offer benefits to both resource-poor farmers and the global community…”

May 8, 2015 • Agroforestry World

Scientists warn U.S. Congress against declaring biomass burning carbon neutral

“Some 200 U.S. environmental scientists have sent a letter to congressional committee chairs urging they reject new rules proposed in April under the Clean Air Act that would define biomass, when burned to produce energy, as being carbon neutral…”

May 13, 2020 • Mongabay

Biomass Cookstove Challenges

“For many decades, it was one of the globe’s most underappreciated health menaces:  household pollution in developing countries, much of it smoke from cooking fires…”

July 12, 2018 • Pro Publica