Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Is faster, steeper decarbonization feasible in Rhode Island? Researchers say yes.

“Faster and Steeper is Feasible: Modeling Deeper Decarbonization in a Northeastern U.S. State,” published in Energy Research & Social Science, uses and updates a energy model originally developed for Rhode Island’s 2016 climate plan to assess the viability of more rapid decarbonization pathways for the state.

The findings suggest that by adopting existing technologies, 70-80 percent reductions can be reached by 2030, 2040 or 2050. Methane leakage from natural gas transmission and landfills remains a major obstacle to complete decarbonization, as do industrial emissions and air travel. The article provides estimates of sectoral and overall costs of these transitions, compared to maintaining existing infrastructure. The study also provides an initial examination of what impact modest behavioral changes would make on the speed and cost of decarbonization at the state level, such as retiring older cars and heating systems. 

In addition to Rhode Island, the article’s findings are instructive for other Northeastern US states: similarities of their built environments (including many older buildings relying on fossil fuel heating), the common electricity market in which all New England states participate, comparable climatic conditions, and similar climate policies and ambitions.

Read the full paper