NewsJanuary 30, 2015

Climate Calculator Lets You Create a New World

Brian Kahn

By Brian Kahn

Follow @blkahn

Have you always wanted to wield the power of a world leader but been unable find a suitable in? Well, your search may finally be over.

The U.K. government has released its Global Calculator, a climate model hitherto only available to world governments to understand how their actions work in concert to reduce global warming. Now the public can crunch the numbers to see how to keep the planet from warming more than 2°C (3.6°F), a politically agreed upon climate target.

A specific look at how energy supply and demand change under the different IPCC pathways.
Credit: Global Calculator


The key drivers of climate change are all available for the tweaking from energy sources, investment in carbon capture and storage, land-use change, transportation and even lifestyle choices like the amount of meat consumed globally. You can adjust each slider on your own to try to reach 2°C.

But if the paradox of choice leaves you too stunned to do anything, there are a number of pre-loaded pathways from a variety of sources. Some of those sources are ones you'd expect, such as one from the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, both at the forefront of climate and energy modeling. Others might be more surprising, such as the Vegan Society, which is exactly what it sounds like, and Shell, the world’s second-largest oil company.

What the different IPCC scenarios mean for energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the 2°C climate goal.
Credit: Global Calculator


Shell’s contribution is particularly timely as a portion of its shareholders and the company itself are planning to see if its business plan is compatible with the 2°C climate goal.

Meat consumption is a major driver of climate change. The graphic shows minimal meat consumption and raising fewer ruminants vs. heavy meat consumption and raising more ruminants.
Credit: Global Calculator


Adjusting the different sliders reveals just how much certain activities weigh on the climate. Diet, specifically how much meat the world consumes, is among the starkest choices. Not only how much meat but the type matter since raising ruminant animals such as cows, sheep and goats is one of the most greenhouse gas-intensive activities humans currently undertake. Reducing meat consumption would make a huge impact on global greenhouse gas emissions and increase the feasibility of reaching climate goals.

Land management is another area where huge gains (or losses) can be made. More efficiently managing croplands and forest can send greenhouse emissions plummeting.

What the scenarios all show is that the current pathway the world is on is not sustainable, nor are we close to meeting the climate goals. But there are pathways forward. It’s just a choice of which one and when the world decides to start walking down it. Or moving the sliders.

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