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Why the pandemic's carbon cuts still won't head off a climate emergency

Data: BloombergNEF; Chart: Axios Visuals

Global carbon emissions from energy, which are the lion's share, will never fully come back from pre-pandemic levels — recovering from a pandemic-fueled decline but sinking again around 2027 with renewable energy on the rise — according to a BloombergNEF analysis.

But, but, but: It still won't prevent the planet from cooking, as the firm still sees enough emissions to lead to over 3.3°C of warming above preindustrial levels by century's end.


  • That's far beyond the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 2°C and ideally 1.5°C — benchmarks for avoiding some of the most damaging effects.
  • And it's despite the fact that, in the new outlook's core scenario, the pandemic's effect on energy demand will remove a total of almost three years worth of emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: “To stay well below two degrees of global temperature rise, we would need to reduce emissions by 6% every year starting now, and to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees C, emissions would have to fall by 10% per year," BNEF analyst Matthias Kimmel said in a statement alongside the report.

What we don't know: How much nations' economic responses to the pandemic will ultimately steer resources into low-carbon projects. A research consortium called Energy Policy Tracker is keeping an updated tally here.

The intrigue: That brings me to another other ripple effect. I don't think it's a stretch to say the pandemic might have an outsized influence on U.S. climate policy.

  • Absent the crisis and its economic effects, President Trump, who gets poor marks from voters on COVID-19, would likely have a much better chance of re-election.
  • If Joe Biden wins, he's vowing a 180-degree turn in the U.S. approach to global warming.
  • While Trump is reversing Obama-era policies, Biden's platform would go vastly beyond anything contemplated in the Obama years.

CES was largely irrelevant this year

Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

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The FBI is tracing a digital trail to Capitol rioters

Capitol rioters, eager to share proof of their efforts with other extremists online, have so far left a digital footprint of at least 140,000 images that is making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to capture and arrest them.

The big picture: Law enforcement's use of digital tracing isn't new, and has long been at the center of fierce battles over privacy and civil liberties. The Capitol siege is opening a fresh front in that debate.

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Off the rails: Inside Air Force One ahead of Trump's last stand in Georgia

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.

If both David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — the two embattled Georgia senators he was campaigning for — lost their runoff elections the following day, the GOP would lose control of the U.S. Senate. And Trump did not want the blood of Georgia on his hands.

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Parler shows signs of life

Far-right-friendly social network Parler is beginning to resurface after going dark last week following a series of bans by Google, Apple and Amazon.

The big picture: By getting a new internet provider that's friendly to far-right sites, Parler — home to a great deal of pro-insurrection chatter before, during and after the Capitol siege — may have found a way to survive despite Big Tech's efforts to pull the plug.

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Historian Michael Beschloss: Trump has "no business" dictating who is an American hero

Data: Trump Executive Order and Axios reporting. Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Delivering on a promise he made at Mount Rushmore this summer, President Trump yesterday released his 244 candidates for a "National Garden of American Heroes."

By the numbers: Men outnumber women nearly four to one (192 to 52). 86 of the nominees,nearly a third, were born between 1900 and 1950. 

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Demand for coronavirus vaccines is outstripping supply — as expected

Now that nearly half of the U.S. population could be eligible for coronavirus vaccines, America is facing the problem experts thought we’d have all along: demand for the vaccine is outstripping supply.

Why it matters: The Trump administration’s call for states to open up vaccine access to all Americans 65 and older and adults with pre-existing conditions may have helped massage out some bottlenecks in the distribution process, but it’s also led to a different kind of chaos.

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First look: Mayors press Biden on immigration

A coalition of nearly 200 mayors and county executives is challenging Joe Biden and the incoming Congress to adopt a progressive immigration agenda that would give everyone a pathway to citizenship.

Why it matters: The group's goals, set out in a white paper released today, seem to fall slightly to the left of what the president-elect plans to propose on Inauguration Day — though not far — and come at a time of intense national polarization over immigration.

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Woman who allegedly stole laptop from Pelosi's office to sell to Russia is arrested

A woman accused of breaching the Capitol and planning to sell to Russia a laptop or hard drive she allegedly stole from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, the Department of Justice said.

Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, is charged with illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. She has not been charged over the laptop allegation and the case remains under investigation, per the DOJ.

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