Friday, January 30, 2015

We Can Have Economic Growth and Combat Climate Change

People have been led to believe that we must choose between the economy and the environment, however a new UK government report says that we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

The report is titled, Prosperous living for the world in 2050. It answers the question, "Is it physically possible to meet our climate targets and ensure everyone has a good living standards by 2050?"

Drawing upon a new tool called the Global Calculator, the report indicates that economic growth and climate action are not mutually exclusive. "[I]t is physically possible to achieve both our economic development and climate change goals by 2050," the report says.

We can simultaneously triple the global economy, provide decent standards of living while cutting our greenhouse gas emissions by half. Even with a global population that is expected to exceed 10 billion by 2050, the report indicates that we can do all of the above and keep temperature increases within internationally agreed upon limits (2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial times).

To achieve this we will need to retool our economies to minimize carbon emissions. To forge a low carbon world we need to transform both our technology and our energy while making smarter use of our limited resources. This includes the need to transition away from fossil fuels and expand our forests to act as carbon sinks.

Carbon dioxide levels per unit of electricity will need to fall by 90 percent and at least one third of all vehicles on the road must be emissions free (electric or hydrogen powered).

"But making this transition to low carbon will require massive effort across all sectors and action must start urgently," the report says. "To ensure that these changes are rolled out, strong leadership from businesses, civil society and politicians is essential to support urgent action to cut emissions through an ambitious global deal in the December 2015 United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) negotiations."

The cost of transitioning to a low carbon world is commonly cited as being prohibitive, however this report suggests otherwise. "The total cost of a decarbonized energy system is only fractionally higher than one that stays fossil fuel dependent and it could even be cheaper."

It is possible to prevent climate change and ensure people's living standards continue to improve, but if we are to succeed we must act now. 

Click here to see the full report (pdf).

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