Power plant. Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

New climate models that challenge the assumption that rich countries can continue to pursue economic growth, while mitigating the impact of climate change, urgently need to be developed to help inform realistic public and policy debate. , say academics writing in the journal Natural energy.

Academics are calling on scientists who develop climate models to explore post-growth approaches designed to keep economies stable without growth, while improving people’s lives.

They point out that existing models, based on continued economic growth, bet on dramatic and potentially unachievable technological changes to achieve the Paris Agreement goals of keeping global warming below 1.5 ° C or 2 ° C. .

Economic growth is expected to result in a significant increase in energy demand over the coming decades, which will make climate change mitigation more difficult. If high-income countries continue to grow at their usual rates, they will need to decarbonize their economic output by more than 12% per year, which will be a significant challenge.

The authors fear that assumptions about negative emissions technologies are “speculative and risky.” For example, intensifying bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) would require massive amounts of farmland and water to grow crops for biofuels.

Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) can avoid some of these problems, but could use up to 50% of current global electricity production to achieve the carbon removal rates assumed in existing scenarios. , which makes it difficult to decarbonize the world’s energy supply. .

Dr Jason Hickel, lead author of the paper and visiting lead researcher at the International Institute of Inequalities at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), said: ‘Scientists have raised enough questions about the risks of negative emissions technologies and the feasibility of decoupling economic growth from increased emissions. Clearly, these approaches may not be adequate to deal with the crisis we are facing.

“We are betting on the future of humanity and the rest of life on earth, assuming that GDP must continue to grow in rich countries. “

The authors of the article argue that economic growth is not necessary for social progress in already wealthy countries. Instead, human needs and well-being can be met by reducing inequalities, ensuring living wages, shortening the working week to full main employment, and ensuring universal access to health care. utilities, education, transport, energy, water and affordable housing.

Dr Jason Hickel said: “The policies we are proposing would actually improve the lives of the vast majority of people.

“If we share the returns of our economy more equitably, we can ensure a good life for all without further plundering the planet. “

The authors highlight possible policy interventions in transport, industry, construction, and cities that would achieve rapid decarbonization without relying too heavily on negative emissions technologies and productivity improvements.

These include switching from private cars to public and non-motorized transport, extending the lifespan of products by imposing guarantees and regulating against planned obsolescence, directing people towards healthier diets to plant-based and urban planning that would allow most people to access urban centers within 15 minutes.


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