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How America can leave fossil fuels behind

What the 2020 US election means for climate change.

All of recorded human history has happened during a period in which the average global temperature didn’t change by more than 1°C. But the burning of fossil fuels has triggered a temperature rise projected to exceed 3°C by the end of the century. It will be catastrophic. But it can be avoided if we massively scale back the burning of fossil fuels.

Without global action to scale back fossil fuels, the global average temperature is expected to rise at least 3°C by the end of the century.
Danush Parvaneh/Vox

The US isn’t the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, but it has emitted more carbon dioxide in total than any other country. So the US has an important role to play in global decarbonization — the world basically can’t get there without the US’s full participation. But the current US president doesn’t have any plans to do that. His Democratic challenger in the 2020 election, Joe Biden, does.

The US is responsible for most global carbon dioxide emissions historically.
Danush Parvaneh/Vox

Biden’s plan is ambitious, setting a goal to completely transition the US to clean energy by 2050. But his plan doesn’t get into the details of exactly how that will happen. For that, we talked to physicist and engineer Saul Griffith, who took us through his incredibly detailed roadmap for how the US could actually walk away from fossil fuels in the next 30 years.

A zoomed-out image of Griffith’s visualization.
Courtesy of Saul Griffith/Rewiring America

Watch the video to see a detailed walkthrough of the US’s energy consumption and how it could decarbonize by 2050.

This video is part of a series focusing on the stakes of the 2020 US election. We’re looking at key issues and asking what about them might actually change in the election’s aftermath. You can help shape our reporting by telling us what issues are most important to you at

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