In his guest column, Don Brunell suggested phasing out fossil gas from buildings would be acting “hastily,” but nothing about our climate policy seems hasty to me. We’ve had decades to act, but we’ve left climate action to the very last possible moment. The good news is, we do still have time to act, and every ton of carbon not emitted makes the climate a little safer.
In 2018, the IPCC said that keeping warming below 1.5 degrees celsius would require cutting emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
How do we get there? Work backwards — there is no role for fossil gas in 2050. Renewable gas can replace only a small portion of our fossil gas use, and is best saved for those uses that are too hard to replace with electricity. That gives us 30 years to wind down our fossil gas system. Every fossil fuel investment we make in the meantime will need to be replaced before 2050.
The first step to get out of this hole is to stop digging. That’s why cities, states, and nations are passing bans on new gas hookups. Every building we avoid hooking up is one fewer we will have to convert later on. In many cases, avoiding the cost of installing a gas line makes all-electric new construction cheaper. Each appliance may last for 10-20 years, so we must stop installing gas appliances in the next few years.
By the way, gas appliances pollute our indoor air. Children in homes with gas stoves have higher rates of asthma symptoms, for example. If it’s bad for the climate and bad for your health, do you really want it in your home?
The way forward is clear. We need to stop new gas hookups first, and we need to start replacing gas appliances when they break down, and even before then. Lawmakers and regulators need to create a clear plan to wind down the gas system that doesn’t leave low-income people behind, and we need tools to finance the transition. If you want to learn more about the steps we need to take, I recommend Rewiring America.
If you want to know how to replace fossil fuels in your own home, check out the organization Electrify Now. We have no time to waste.