INSTITUTE INDEX: What Georgia's Senate runoffs mean for U.S. climate policy

Georgians, like these three who took part in the 2017 People's Climate March in Washington, D.C., will soon have the opportunity to vote in two U.S. Senate runoff elections. The outcome of the Jan. 5 special election between incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock and of the regular election between incumbent Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate — and whether the U.S. government will be able to act quickly and decisively enough to limit greenhouse gas pollution to levels that would stave off global warming's most catastrophic effects. (Photo by Georgia Sierra Club via Flickr.)

Month in which President Trump officially withdrew the U.S. — the world's second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gas pollution — from the Paris Agreement, a 2016 international treaty that aims to cut those emissions in order to limit global warming to levels that would stave off the most catastrophic effects: 11/2020

Rank of that month among the world's hottest Novembers on record, with 2020 as a whole also on track to break temperature records: 1

Of the five hottest years ever recorded on the planet, number that have come since 2015: 5

Months before Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study showing that climate change is causing hurricanes to intensify faster, grow stronger, move more slowly, and dump more rain: 6

Rank of October's Hurricane Delta among the most rapidly intensifying Atlantic basin hurricanes ever, and one which also broke records as the fourth named storm to hit Louisiana in a single season: 1

Estimated financial losses in the U.S. just from Hurricane Delta, which made landfall as a Category 2 storm, and the much stronger Hurricane Laura, which hit the same area of western Louisiana near the Texas border in August as a Category 4 with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour: $9.5 billion to over $16 billion

Total cost of hurricanes to the mainland U.S. in 2017, a peak year: $307 billion

Date on which President-elect Joe Biden announced that his administration would rejoin the Paris Agreement in January: 11/4/2020

Amount Biden is proposing to spend as part of his climate stimulus package, which would expand the use of clean energy: $2 trillion

Year by which Biden's plan aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions: 2050

Rank of the outcome of the two Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia, which will decide partisan control of the body, among the primary factors determining whether the U.S. government will be able take the swift and far-reaching action needed to prevent even more catastrophic warming: 1

Month in which the Republican National Committee re-adopted its 2016 platform, which does not acknowledge that human activity is driving climate change: 6/2020

Percent of Georgians who agree with climate scientists that the planet is warming due to human activity: 54

Degrees Celsius by which the global temperature has already risen over preindustrial levels: 1

Degrees Celsius to which scientists say we need to limit the increase in order to stave off catastrophic effects: 1.5 to 2

If Biden's targets are met, temperature rise in degrees Celsius that the emissions reductions would avoid by 2100, according to an analysis by Climate Action Tracker: about 0.1

Year in which global carbon dioxide emissions began to flatten, a hopeful development tied to a drop in the use of coal and an increase in the use of renewable energy technologies: 2019

Date on which early voting in the Georgia runoffs begins: 12/14/2020

(Click on figure to go to source.)