This Essay outlines a simple heuristic that will enable public and private policymakers to focus on the most important climate change mitigation strategies. Policymakers face a dizzying array of information, pressure from advocacy groups, and policy options, and it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Many policy options are attractive on the surface but either fail to meaningfully address the problem or are unlikely to be adopted in the foreseeable future. If policymakers make the right decision when confronting three essential choices or forks in the road, though, the result will be 60% to 70% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, an amount that will keep widely-adopted climate mitigation goals in reach. The three options are decarbonization of the electrical grid, electrification of the motor vehicle fleet, and electrification of buildings. International, national, and subnational officials, philanthropists, corporate executives, advocacy group leaders, and households all have the ability to prioritize these three options in their regulatory, purchasing, and other actions. If they choose these three decarbonatization options, many other mistakes can be made without jeopardizing the achievement of widely adopted emissions targets. If they make the wrong choice, however, few combinations of other viable options can achieve the necessary reductions. In the face of a growing consensus that immediate, major emissions reductions are required, the forks in the road heuristic can provide policymakers with the framework necessary to make smart decisions and ignore the noise surrounding climate law and policy.
Michael P. Vandenbergh & Jonathan M. Gilligan, Essay: Forks In the Road, 31 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 163-173 (2020)
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/delpf/vol31/iss1/3