‘Carbon Law’ Could End Greenhouse Gas Emissions

(CN) – Ahead of this year’s Earth Hour, researchers have proposed a new “carbon law” that would enable the international community to nearly eliminate fossil-fuel emissions by 2050.

In order to meet the United Nations Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages by 2050, the team recommends directing international efforts toward cutting global carbon emissions in half each decade.

This approach, outlined in a free article published Friday in the journal Science, is based on Moore’s Law, that computer processors double in power roughly every two years.

Wind farms like the one above can help regions convert from fossil fuel to renewable energy, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

While not a natural or legal law, the theory has held for 50 years and has been described as a “golden rule.” The authors hope to apply a similar concept to reducing greenhouse gas.

Such an approach would help ensure that major efforts to reduce emissions happen sooner rather than later, including a significant expansion of renewable energy sources, the team argues.

“We are already at the start of this trajectory,” said lead author Johan Rockstrom, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. “In the last decade, the share of renewables in the energy sector has doubled every 5.5 years. If doubling continues at this pace, fossil fuels will exit the energy sector well before 2050.”

The authors cite quickly reducing emissions caused by deforestation and agriculture and removing carbon from the atmosphere as specific steps that could limit global warming within the timeframe outlined in the Paris Agreement.

A “carbon law” approach offers a flexible means of reducing carbon emissions, which can be applied across industries and nations. Reduction efforts can also be applied on both regional and global scales.

“Our civilization needs to reach a socio-economic tipping point soon, and this roadmap shows just how this can happen,” co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said. “In particular, we identify concrete steps towards full decarbonization by 2050. Businesses who try to avoid those steps and keep on tiptoeing will miss the next industrial revolution and thereby their best opportunity for a profitable future.”

Economic incentives, or disincentives, like removing fossil fuel subsidies and creating taxes on carbon – starting at $50 per ton, reaching $400 per ton by 2050 – could also encourage industry to reduce emissions, the team suggests.

Taxes on greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with economic opportunities for renewable energy-based ventures could promote an enthusiasm for investing in green technologies across economic sectors.

“While for years we’ve seen the ramp-down of incumbent fossil technologies only as burden, the other side of the coin is now finally visible: lower costs, more jobs and cleaner air,” co-author Malte Meinshausen said.

Reduction efforts can also be applied regionally and globally.

“Regions that make way for future-proof renewable energy and storage investments will turn a zero-emissions future into an economic opportunity,” Meinshausen said.

The authors estimate following such a “carbon law,” which is based on published energy scenarios, would lead to a 75 percent chance of keeping global warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages.

“It clearly communicates that no single solution will do the job, and that this deep uncertainty thus implies starting today pursuing multiple options simultaneously,” co-author Joeri Rogelj said.

Earth Hour is an annual event coordinated by the World Wildlife Federation to bring awareness to climate change and environmental impacts. The group encourages everyone to turn off their lights for an hour on March 25, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time, to mark the event.

 

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