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It can feel overwhelming and even futile when we hear targets like zero emissions by 2050, while population reaches 10 billion and the world’s economy triples in size – how can we possibly stay below 2°C temperature rise?
A new tool shows it is possible to meet this goal while ensuring everyone has a good standard of living. People can have the food they need, live in comfortable homes, and even travel. [Not that we condone an ever-expanding population and economy].
"The Global Calculator unequivocally demonstrates that it is physically possible to achieve both our economic development and climate change goals by 2050. The world has enough energy, land and food resources for us all to live well," says UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change.
The Department led a team of 10 international organizations to build a model of the world’s energy, land, food and climate systems that takes us to 2050.
The Global Calculator models the kinds of lifestyles physically possible for the world’s population – from miles travelled per person to calorie consumption and diet – and the energy, materials and land necessary to satisfy all that.
Experts from more than 150 organizations have tested the model and it’s available for everyone to use. You can experiment with various pathways to see what it takes for the world to stay under 2°C.
Climate Global Calculator
The tool is being offered to governments around the world to use in the run-up to the Paris Climate Summit. Government officials can weigh various policy choices and see if it gets them to the 2°C goal. China, India and other countries are already using national versions of the tool.
"For the first time, this calculator shows that everyone in the world can prosper while limiting global temperature rises to 2°C, preventing the most serious impacts of climate change. Yet the calculator is also very clear that we must act now to change how we use and generate energy and how we use our land if we are going to achieve this green growth," says Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change.
While experimenting with the energy mix, energy efficiency in buildings, modes of transport and land use, the tool warns you about blackout risks, unsustainable resource consumption, or unrealistic levels of ambition.
One thing you’ll find is that to feed a population of 10 billion, much more land will be consumed by agriculture (unless we move to indoor food systems like vertical farms), with negative ramifications for biodiversity. To balance that, deforestation must be stopped and forested land must rise about 15% by 2050.
About a third of cars will have to run on electricity or hydrogen by 2050, and 25-50% of households will be heated with clean electricity or other zero-carbon sources.
You can also play with pre-set options: "Business as Usual," "Friends of the Earth" and "Vegan Society".
Under "Business as Usual," programmed in by the International Energy Agency, carbon emissions continue rising at the current rate, bringing temperature rise of 6.6°C by 2100.
Under the ‘Friends of the Earth’ option, we reach zero net emissions by 2050 by renewables supplying 72% of electricity, quadrupling building efficiency and tripling transport efficiency.
The Vegan Society shows what happens with a less meat-intensive diet.