Thursday, May 19, 2016

Modelling the Best Way to Reduce Global Carbon Emissions

English: Carbon flow schematic of different en...
English: Carbon flow schematic of different energy source, including systems with carbon capture and storage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2 °C and SDGs: united they stand, divided they fall? (16 page pdf, Christoph von Stechow, Jan C Minx, Keywan Riahi, Jessica Jewell, David L McCollum, Max W Callaghan, Christoph Bertram, Gunnar Luderer and Giovanni Baiocchi, Environmental Research Letters, Mar. 16, 2016)

Also discussed here: Short-sighted climate policy jeopardizes other UN sustainable development goals (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis News, Mar. 16, 2016)

 Today we review the results from 7 “integrated” models which were used to assess 20 scenarios for each decade out to 2050 while considering the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets and the agreement to limit global climate warming to 2 deg C, set out in the recent COP 21 conference in Paris. Some carbon emission reduction strategies have emphasized economic impacts alone, failing to take into account wider social and environmental implications.

Application of carbon pricing to transportation, for example, has a greater potential for lowering emissions in the near term because of the short turn-around needed for technological improvements (e.g. electric vehicles) and the quick responsiveness of users to fuel price changes. On the other hand, a major increase in energy prices can have major impacts on the poor in developing countries, unless their concerns are accommodated in some way.

Another significant finding from this research is the impact of delaying the reduction of energy while waiting for potential non carbon energy technologies to become cost effective and widely used, such as BioEnergy(BE), Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR). The modelling indicates that delaying climate mitigation in the short term, to give time for these technologies to emerge, leads to more risk and costs in the long term if the 2 deg goal is to be met. 

 Key Quotes:

“some 2 °C pathways could, if not designed properly, undermine SD in non-climate dimensions. For example, pathways with a limited short-term ambition like the current INDCs may have higher SD risks than more ambitious ones…Such broader SD implications could delegitimize some 2 °C pathways or even the 2 °C target itself”

“Since the transport sector is characterized by faster capital turnover rates (at least with regard to the vehicle fleet) .. it can react more quickly to carbon price changes, compensating for higher emissions from sectors that are less flexible.”

“a 20%–30% increase in energy prices may have a much more immediate, adverse effect on the poor in many countries than a 4-7-fold increase in maximum decadal upscaling of variable renewable energy sources, which is primarily a technological and institutional challenge for infrastructure provision.”

“delaying stringent mitigation in the near term leads to a significant increase in mitigation risk levels in the medium term compared to optimal 2 °C pathways. With more GHG emissions before 2030, subsequent reductions are more expensive”

 “assuming lower energy demand growth entails mitigation risk reductions relative to optimal 2 °C pathways ..As each unit of energy not produced is free of pervasive supply-side risks, reducing energy demand by promoting energy efficiency in end-use sectors,… lifestyle changes .. and structural changes in the economy …is an important strategy both for mitigation and other sustainable energy objectives"

 “the absence of CCS seriously questions the achievability of the 2 °C target in a world with delayed climate action and therefore threatens the climate SDG itself” “SD considerations are central for determining socially acceptable climate policies and that the prospects of meeting other SDGs need not dwindle and can even be enhanced for some goals if appropriate climate policy choices are made.”

“limiting the availability of key mitigation technologies yields some co-benefits and decreases risks specific to these technologies but greatly increases many others”

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