What ‘Net Zero’ actually means

Many companies and even whole countries are declaring their goals of being “Net Zero” in the coming decades. Most of us can easily tell that this trendy buzzword probably means that companies are trying to go green (or at least look greener) but it’s helpful to know what it means.

Net Zero means that while a company or country may still emit emissions, they will control for those emissions through carbon offsets. This is different from “Gross Zero,” which means not emitting any emissions at all.

Gross Zero is an impossible task. While our basic emissions such as a human simply breathing is balanced by nature, almost everything we own has a carbon footprint. The next best thing then is to reduce our emissions as much as possible, and then remove the rest.

Planting forests (and not cutting them down,) carbon capture, and helping others reduce their climate footprint are all ways to reach Net Zero. A good program should include a variety of offsets, and include wide margins of error, so that if a carbon offset forest burns down, those losses are covered by other offset programs.

It’s technologically possible

Critics have claimed that Net Zero is not currently within our grasp. A recent study out of Princeton University has shown otherwise however, and also claims that the USA can do it without spending any more than we usually do.

The study takes things a step farther than past research, by offering 5 different scenarios that all lead to Net Zero. The study also provides key details on how this could be done without overspending, all of which include the phase out of coal powered electricity plants by 2030.

The detailed scenarios even suggest where to manufacture clean energy components to save the most money, and where clean energy can be integrated most efficiently.

A cleaner future is affordable

Many of the hang ups in the past about a cleaner infrastructure plan has been the cost of it. According to an article published on the Yale website, past estimates have put a rapid transition to clean energy at 4.5 trillion for the USA, and 73 trillion dollars for the world.

If you’ve ever looked up the price of sustainable swimwear for example, you probably know what it’s like to be priced out of low carbon solutions.

This recent study shows that it’s possible to rapidly decarbonize, and without breaking the bank. When we consider just how damaging the droughts, hurricanes, and fires have been, the question should really be can we afford not to.

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