It’s easy to be pessimistic about climate change, because carbon emissions continue to rise and millions of people aspire to lifestyles that are likely to make those emissions grow. But all is not lost. It’s still possible to imagine how the world could stay within safe global warming limits and everyone could live well. It’s just going to take some big advances in electricity generation, energy efficiency, and things like food production (because we need to protect forests, rather than dig them up to plant crops).
To explore how this might be possible, take a look at the Global Calculator, a new tool that lets you model scenarios for the year 2050 and see the effect on climate. You can choose levels for travel, homes, diet, transport, buildings, energy production, and so on–40 “levers” in all. Setting the level at “1” means you think that area will see “minimum abatement effort”; setting it at “4” means you think we’ll see ambitious moves in that area.
The tool was funded by the U.K. government and developed by 15 groups, including the International Energy Agency, the London School of Economics, and the World Resources Institute. It links to climate data from the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and is based on average consumption per person (in reality, of course, levels would be very different between countries).
When you set scenarios, or “pathways,” in the Global Calculator, it will warn you if you’re not generating enough electricity, or if your vision raises energy security issues. There are more than 20 ready-made pathways available, including ones where the world eats no meat (the implausible “Vegan Society” pathway) or where we simply carry on as we do now (the disastrous “IEA 6DS” scenario).
For a more positive picture, an accompanying report identifies four pathways that would keep us within a two degrees temperature increase (the level seen as relatively safe by scientists). These include the “Consumer reluctance” pathway, where we see little take-up of electric vehicles, but plenty of nuclear and carbon capture, and lots of tree planting, among other things.
See the four scenarios in the slideshow. Or check out the Global Calculator for yourself here.