Posted in | Global Warming

Carbon Crisis Highlights Need to Move Quickly Towards Low-Carbon World

There is an expert warning that says that we have to quickly move towards a low-carbon world, if we are to have any opportunity of limiting global warming to 2 °C this century.

Credit: The University of Manchester

The Researchers at the Universities of Manchester, Sussex and Oxford in a new study, published in the Science journal, suggest that the changes in transport, industry, buildings, heat and electricity are required quickly and must happen all at once.

To deliver a reasonable (66%) chance of limiting global temperature increases to below 2 °C, International Renewable Energy Agency and the International Energy Agency propose that global energy-related carbon emissions must peak by 2020 and fall by more than 70% in the following 35 years. This indicates a tripling of the annual rate of energy efficiency enhancement, retrofitting the entire building stock, producing 95% of electricity from low-carbon sources by 2050 and shifting almost completely towards electric cars.

This challenge makes the ‘rapid and deep decarbonization’ of forestry, industrial, heat, transport, electricity and agricultural systems around the globe necessary – however, despite the latest rapid growth in renewable electricity generation, the rate of progress towards this broader goal remains slow. Furthermore, many Climate and Energy Researchers remain wedded to approaches that focus on a single area.

The latest study explains how the pace of the low-carbon transition can be sped up using what it describes as ‘key lessons’ - focusing on the big picture instead of individual elements, aligning several systems and innovations, providing business and societal support and phasing out existing systems.

Our ‘big picture’ framework shows that policymakers have to stimulate developments, as well as building political coalitions, enhancing business involvement and engaging with civil society.

Professor Frank Geels, Lead Author, The University of Manchester

​Professor Nick Eyre from the University of Oxford, End Use Energy Demand Champion for the UK Research Councils' Energy Program, adds: “Accelerating transitions is critical if we are to achieve the goals of decarbonising and saving energy faster, further, and more flexibly. This international quality study shows the importance of whole systems thinking in energy demand research.

Current rates of change are simply not enough. We need to accelerate transitions, deepen their speed and broaden their reach. Otherwise there can be no hope of reaching a 2 degree target, let alone 1.5 degrees. This piece reveals that the acceleration of transitions across the sociotechnical systems of electricity, heat, buildings, manufacturing, and transport requires new approaches, analyses and research methods.

Professor Benjamin K. Sovacool, Co-Author on the study, The University of Sussex

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