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Can We Stop Climate Change While Still Living Comfortably?

| 29 Jan 2015 19:55

The United Kingdom's Global Calculator tool says we can prevent climate change without harming our modern lifestyles - if alterations are made to three key areas.

When I was growing up, most of the conversation about "fixing" global warming dealt with ordinary people changing their daily habits. We all needed to drive less, consume fewer foodstuffs, and take time away from computer screens to ensure a brighter, less apocalyptic future for our children. Trouble is, limiting the conveniences of modern life is easier said than done. Is there a way humans can continue their tech-heavy lifestyles, preserve the economy, and limit greenhouse gas emissions? According to the United Kingdom's new "Global Calculator" tool it's entirely possible - if key changes occur behind the scenes.

The Global Calculator, designed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, is meant to explore plausible changes that would limit climate change moving into the 21st Century. It includes 44 variables that cover lifestyle choices, technological development, fuel use, land developments, and so forth. Any user can tweak the settings, which output data for what global temperatures and economic prosperity will look like in 2050.

Right now, the global economy is expected to triple in size while energy demands increase by 70%. Global greenhouse gas emissions will increase from 50 to 84 gigatonnes, and the planet will warm by four degrees in 100 years. Paradoxically, living standards actually improve during this time thanks to increased electrical access and housing advancements. That said, if you don't have access to such homes you'll likely be in a world of trouble.

So the goal is to prevent this climate change while keeping a prosperous economy. Can it be done? According to the calculator, yes - if a few essential changes are made. Based on four scenarios limiting warming to two degrees without harming the economy, fossil fuels must be limited to 40 percent of global energy use and replaced with nuclear energy and renewable sources. Per capita energy use also needs to be cut by 10 to 15 percent, which can be achieved through energy efficiency measures. Finally, crop yields must grow from 40 to 60 percent to feed our population without chopping down valuable forest land.

"For the first time this Global Calculator shows that everyone in the world can prosper while limiting global temperature rises to two degrees," climate secretary Ed Davey said, "preventing the most serious impacts of climate change."

There are other, specific variables that can be tweaked, but each scenario only changes the global GDP by two to three percent. In other words, it's entirely possible to change global climate trends without vastly changing our modern economy if concentrated effort is made in the aforementioned areas. Anyone who thinks the scenarios could be improved on is welcome to access the tool for themselves, but it's certainly encouraging to know we have options at our disposal.

Source: Global Calculator, via Carbon Brief

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