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US must ‘make much deeper emissions cuts to meet climate goals’

Steam is emitted from smoke stacks at a coal-fired power plant, Nov 17, 2021, in Craig, Colorado. (RICK BOWMER / FILE / AP)

The United States needs to make far faster and deeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades to meet international goals to rein in the worst effects of climate change, according to a government report issued on Monday.

The draft of the Fifth National Climate Assessment, which is required by Congress to be published every four years, was released as world leaders and diplomats kicked off a two-week climate summit in Egypt. 

A report by the US government laid out the harms climate change is already exacting in every part of US in the form of drought, wildfires, heatwaves and other extreme events

The United States reduced emissions by 12 percent between 2007 and 2019, the report said, thanks to the adoption of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and improved efficiency. But they must fall by more than 6 percent annually to meet President Joe Biden's goal of decarbonizing the economy by 2050.

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The report laid out the harms climate change is already exacting in every part of the country in the form of drought, wildfires, heatwaves and other extreme events.

It also cast climate change as a risk to "the things Americans most value" such as safe homes, healthy families, reliable public services and a sustainable economy.

These effects are experienced most strongly by low-income and often racialized communities which have historically been forced into areas vulnerable to flooding, extreme heat and air pollution, the report said.

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Climate change is harming regional economies by reducing corn yields in the Midwest, increasing heat-related health risks for outdoor workers in the Southeast and diminishing fish catches in Alaska, among other impacts.

The report said immediate actions such as incentivizing electric vehicle adoption and renewable energy development, reducing emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane and improving cropland management can be cost effective and have large impacts on reducing carbon emissions.

The draft is open for public comments until Jan 27. A final report is expected in 2023.