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New Study: ‘World Can End Poverty and Limit Warming’

By Alex Kirby, Climate News Network

LONDON — Eradicating poverty by making modern energy supplies available to everyone is not only compatible with measures to slow climate change, a new study says. It is a necessary condition for it.

But the authors say the plan to provide sustainable energy worldwide will not by itself be enough to keep the global  average temperature rise below the widely accepted international target level of 2°C (3.6°F). While the plan can help measures to tackle climate change, it cannot achieve that by itself.

A woman carries firewood near Axum, Ethiopia.
Credit: A Davey via Climate News Network

The plan, the U.N.’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), if it proves successful, could make a significant contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to the analysis from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and ETH Zurich.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, shows that reaching the three energy-related goals of SE4All would cut greenhouse gas emissions and is achievable.

“Achievement of the three objectives would provide an important entry point into stringent climate protection”, says Joeri Rogelj, ETH Zurich researcher and IIASA-affiliated scientist, who led the study.

It found that the short-term goals, due to be reached by 2030, would help achieve long-term climate targets. But to ensure stringent climate objectives were reached, SE4ALL would need to be matched by other measures, the researchers say.

SE4All ‘Necessary — But Not Sufficient’

SE4All’s objectives include providing universal access to modern energy, doubling the share of renewable energy globally, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency — all by 2030.

While the objectives do not explicitly address climate change, sustainable energy is accepted as vital for cutting greenhouse gas emissions: 80 percent of CO2 from human activities comes from the global energy system, including transport, buildings, industry, and electricity, heat, and fuel production.

“Doing energy right will promote the Millennium Development Goals and at the same time kick-start the transition to a lower-carbon economy”, says IIASA researcher David McCollum, who also worked on the study. “But the U.N.’s objectives must be complemented by a global agreement on controlling greenhouse gas emissions.”

Credit: Engineering for Change via SE4All

SE4All has global goals, but the researchers say action at regional and national levels will be essential to achieving them. IIASA’s energy program leader Keywan Riahi, a co-author of the study, says: “The next step for this initiative is already under way, with a large number of national plans that underpin the global objectives.”

They analyzed the likelihood of the world limiting global warming to target levels if each or all of the SE4All objectives were achieved. Using a broad range of scenarios, they found that if all the objectives are met, the likelihood of keeping temperature rise below 2°C (3.6°F) will be more than 66 percent.

Many Variables

If only the renewable energy goal is met, chances of staying below 2°C (3.6°F) will range from 40 to 90 percent, they say, while achieving just the energy efficiency goal will improve the chances to between 60 and 90 percent.

But the researchers warn that this result depends strongly on what future economic growth is assumed. They say the likelihood of reaching climate targets within the scenarios depend on a range of other factors, including energy demand growth, economic growth, and technological innovation.

The study also found that providing universal energy access by 2030 will not hinder long-term climate goals, thanks to the marked gains in energy efficiency that will result. “Sustainable development and poverty eradication can go hand in hand with mitigating climate risks,” says Rogelj.

He told the Climate News Network: “To ensure effective climate change mitigation, a global treaty on greenhouse gases should enforce a cap on global emissions which limits emissions from all sources.

“With such a cap SE4ALL can help to limit emissions from the energy sector, but other measures will have to tackle those from other sources like deforestation, or other gases, like methane from agriculture and waste, or facilitate an even quicker decarbonization of the energy sector, like carbon-capture and storage.”

The new work also quantified the potential costs of reaching the SE4All objectives, which would amount to increasing energy investment by between 0.1 and 0.7 percent of global GDP. The authors’ estimates account for the substantial savings in energy use and reduced fossil energy investment that would result from promoting more sustainable energy technologies and lifestyles.

Alex Kirby, a former BBC environment correspondent, is a founding journalist of Climate News Network. Climate News Network is a news service led by four veteran British environmental reporters and broadcasters. It delivers news and commentary about climate change for free to media outlets worldwide.

Comments

By Best Mom (54434)
on March 3rd, 2013

It’s all fun until your own kids call you out for fear mongering them with CO2 death threats. We are SO wrong to be doing this people. We need to back off of the CO2 mistake.

My kids put me up to this; to find one single IPCC warning of crisis that wasn’t peppered in “maybes” and “could bes” etc.
“How is that a crisis after 27 years of research and if “maybe” is a good enough reason to condemn your own family to the greenhouse gas ovens maybe mom and dad just hate humanity more than they love the planet.” My own kids said this to me! I see now that not only was climate change exaggeration a war crime, it was child abuse as well!
How can science say comet hits are imminent and inevitable but NEVER say the same about climate change crisis? They say climate change is “real and happening” but do not agree it “WILL” be a crisis, only “could be” a crisis. And it’s been 27 years of researching mostly effects not causes. Prove me wrong!
We need to demand that the millions of good and honest people in the global scientific community start marching with the dozens of climate change protesters to show their sincerity and science needs to be crystal clear about climate change being a crisis or not. We don’t want this to be real do we? Well do we?
I’m sure Bush laughs at our being the fear mongering neocons now. We need preach love for the planet not fear.

Reply to this comment

By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on March 4th, 2013

Best: Some suggestions for you if you are still one of the minority who is uncertain if climate change is real or not and something to be concerned about:

1. You could to take a look at some of what Dr. James Hansen has to say on the issue. He has written some articles and books which are suitable for non scientists.  He also doesn’t use very many maybe’s when he talks about it.  http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/  You can check out his credentials on Google. He is also probably this country’s foremost climatologist and pretty much hated by deniers because of his stature, outspokenness and because his logic is so difficult to contradict.

2. You could take notice of what is happening with the climate in this country and elsewhere in the world, for instance, the North Pole is melting and then just honestly ask yourself is this normal and is it a good thing or a bad thing.

3. Use your own common sense.  If the world’s scientific experts in climate tell you that there are big risks to do with climate change, then maybe you should listen to them as much as you would listen to your medical doctor for advice. They are the professionals. Politicians are not.

Reply to this comment

By Dan (83836)
on March 4th, 2013

Dave, don’t worry about “Best Mom” - this is just another alias of the “mememine” denialist poster who seems to be just about everywhere.  The themes mememine/Best Mom uses are easy to spot, and his/her latest seems to be calling any author or person concerned about climate change a “fear mongering neocon”  It really is bizarre, whoever this person is, just how much energy they put into their denialist postings.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on March 4th, 2013

Thanks for the heads up Dan.  I had no idea this was some kind of fake.  Oh well.  Maybe someone else found my comments useful.  At least they are real.

Reply to this comment

By Lewis Cleverdon
on March 5th, 2013

Dave and Dan - it’s not a person, it’s an auto-bot, which is a mass-produced, moderately variable product of the ‘virtual persona’ programs now commercially available. The old astro-turf operations seem quite mild by comparison.

In my view it’s a shame that Climate Central should provide a platform for the publication of such propaganda - we’re looking at over six million dead of famine with the coming serial crop failures, so why are the propagandists of inaction tolerated here ? Goebels would have been delighted to learn that America gives free speech priority over preventing a holocaust.

And this time round, everybody can hear the information of what’s happening loud & clear - unless they actively choose not to listen.

Regards,

Lewis

Reply to this comment

By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on March 5th, 2013

Lewis – remember that in this country corporations are legally considered “persons”.  Once you can accept that then granting free speech to robots is not that much of a stretch.  Maybe CC is simply ahead of the curve on this. Anyway, it fooled me. I indeed now suspect that “Best….” actually is a mindless robot post like Lewis says since there has been no characteristic ranting response so far. On the bright side, if this use of mechanical beep-beep type deniers is representative of a trend, I wonder if it also signals a shift towards more flesh and blood people seriously taking notice and engaging the problem of climate change.

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