Economic equality is key to solving climate change, report shows
06 March 2018 | Markets
Economies need to reduce inequality and promote sustainable development for the world to avert the perils of runaway global warming, according to new research.
The risk of missing emissions targets increased dramatically under economic scenarios that emphasizes high inequality and growth powered by fossil fuels, according to research published Monday by a team of scientists in the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change journal.
"Climate change is far from the only issue we as a society are concerned about" said Joeri Rogelj, the paper’s lead author and a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis outside of Vienna. "We have to understand how these many goals can be achieved simultaneously. With this study, we show the enormous value of pursuing sustainable development for ambitious climate goals in line with the Paris Agreement," he said.
Carbon Dioxide emissions by country 2000-2016 (metric tons)
The paper bridges two of the most intractable challenges facing policy makers across the globe. Scientists predict higher frequencies of floods, famines and superstormsunless the world keeps temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century. At the same time, growing income inequality has been robbing advanced economies of dynamism needed to boost their resilience to change.
The IIASA researchers modeled six different scenarios in order to determine conditions that would limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the paper.
“Our assessment shows particularly the enormous value of pursuing sustainable development for reaching extreme low climate change targets,” said Keywan Riahi, a coauthor of the paper. “On the other hand, fragmentation and pronounced inequalities will likely come hand-in-hand with low levels of innovation and productivity, and thus may push the 1.5 degrees Celsius target out of reach.”
Greenhouse gas emissions should peak before 2030 after which they’ll "decline rapidly" with a combination of phasing out of industry and energy related CO2 combined with an "upscaling" carbon capture and carbon dioxide removal, according to the report. An estimated 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide was released last year, 2 percent more than 2016, according to researchers in the Global Carbon Project.
“Bioenergy and other renewable energy technologies, such as wind, solar, and hydro, scale up drastically over the coming decades in successful scenarios, making up at least 60 percent of electricity generation by the middle of the century,” according to the researchers. “Traditional coal use falls to less than 20% of its current levels by 2040 and oil is phased out by 2060.”