UK takes lead on climate change modelling with new Global Calculator

The UK has reinforced its 'leading position' on climate change ahead of Paris 2015 with DECC launching a new tool to help businesses and governments understand the environmental impacts of energy and emissions policies.

The Global Calculator, produced with input from more than 150 experts worldwide, is a model of the world’s energy, land and food systems that allows users to design their own version of the future up to 2050 and see the implications for the climate.

The online tool was soft launched in 2010 and has previously only been used exclusively by governments – including India and China – until its global release yesterday (27 January).

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:” “The UK is leading on climate change both at home and abroad.

“Britain’s global calculator can help the world’s crucial climate debate this year. Along with the many country-based 2050 calculators we pioneered, we are working hard to demonstrate to the global family that climate action benefits people.”

Global warning

Focusing on the UN-led 2C global warming limit, the calculator shows that the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of electricity must fall by 90% by 2050. Likewise, buildings in 2050 must be 50-65% better insulated and cars 50% more efficient.

Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd said: “This Global Calculator is unique for three reasons. It has been built in collaboration with a range of international organisations – from China to India and the US. It is open, with its data fully available to the public, and it is also simple enough for everyone to use.”

VIDEO: DECC’s insights from the Global Calculator

Future scenarios

The International Energy Agency has programmed a ‘business as usual’ scenario on the calculator, where CO2 emissions continue to rise at their current rate, reaching 84.3 gigatonnes annually. The high-end temperature risef rom these emissions is 6.6C by 2100.

Conversely, one of the preset scenarios is a ‘Friends of the Earth’ option, where the planet produces zero net emissions by 2050. The change is driven by a tripling of transport efficiency and a quadrupling of building efficiency. Renewables will also produce around 72% of electricity.

Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth which helped test the tool, said: “The need for urgent action to avoid dangerous climate change is well accepted, but the steps we should take are often hotly contested. This excellent tool enables everyone to play the role of world leader and make decisions on the action we should take in key areas like energy, manufacturing and farming.

“It shows we can still avoid the world warming by much less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels – all we need is the will to act. With crucial climate talks due in Paris later this year, this calculator demonstrates to our political leaders that a cleaner, safer and fairer future is possible.”

Shell and the Vegan Society also have preloaded scenarios on the calculator – Shell focused on tackling energy issues while the Vegan Society imagined a less carbon-intensive (i.e. less meat) diet.

Shell video: Global calculator scenarios

Brad Allen

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