Build Your Own Solutions to the Climate Crisis With the En-Roads Climate Simulator
Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.
By itself, a carbon tax rising to around $200 per ton of emissions would bring the world about halfway to the Paris goal, according to the En-ROADS interactive tool developed by the MIT Sloan School of Management and Climate Interactive. Countries would also need to implement other aggressive climate policies targeting the many different sectors of the economy that generate large-scale greenhouse gas emissions. The tool allows a user to figure out how:
- civilization must change the fuel mix supplying the world's energy and boost efficiency
- the extent to which more buildings and vehicles must be electrified
- strategies could help reduce deforestation and how to plant more trees of the optimum species at the right locations
- carbon capture technology could be relied upon to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere
Carbon Taxes Seen as the Most Effective Tool
According to Climate Interactive's climate and energy lead, Ellie Johnston, "Behind En-ROADS is a system dynamics model that weaves the interdependencies and feedbacks of our global climate system with the actions that we need to take globally to address climate change."
The simulation begins with a default business-as-usual scenario leading to 4.1 degrees Celsius (7.3 degrees Fahrenheit) global warming above pre-industrial temperatures by the year 2100. This outcome is essentially a worst-case scenario, assuming that current worldwide climate policies and pledges (which would limit warming to approximately 3 degrees C, or 5.4 degrees F) are not successfully implemented. For context, the international Paris agreement set a target of no more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) global warming, whereas 3 to 4 degrees C warming would likely result in disastrous climate change consequences.
In the En-ROADS simulator, taxing carbon pollution is the single most effective way to bridge the gap between business-as-usual warming and the Paris target. A strong global carbon tax that eventually rises to around $200 per ton of carbon dioxide would reduce global warming from 4 to approximately 3 degrees C by 2100, erasing half of the difference between the two scenarios. The carbon tax makes already-expensive coal even costlier, accelerating its replacement by renewables, and also increases consumer demand for more energy-efficient products that become comparatively cheap as fossil fuel energy prices rise. According to a recent International Monetary Fund report, a carbon tax of $75 per ton would more than triple the price of coal and increase natural gas prices by 70 percent, with gasoline prices rising by about 70 cents per gallon.
A growing body of climate economics research supports a robust carbon tax. For example, an October 2019 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focusing on risk and uncertainty concluded that the appropriate carbon tax is more than $100 per ton of carbon dioxide, most economically efficient if immediately implemented at that high price. As co-author Gernot Wagner at New York University described their results, "taking risk and uncertainty seriously — and applying standard tools from financial economics — dramatically increases today's carbon prices. It also reverses carbon price paths over time: high today, declining over time."
Experts for some time have debated the best way to structure a carbon tax. Some argue that the price should start low and increase over time in order to give consumers a period to adjust, thus making the tax more politically palatable. The new PNAS study argues that from a risk management perspective, the carbon tax should start high because emissions will then fall quickly, reducing the risk of catastrophic outcomes. As Wagner put it, "folks in 2300 will know more about the climate in 2300 than we know today. Uncertainty resolves itself over time." In the meantime, the reasoning follows, prudent risk management requires taking aggressive steps to avoid a possible climate catastrophe.
However, there are limits to how effectively carbon taxes alone can cut emissions. An assessment by scientists at Columbia University and the Rhodium Group of a specific carbon tax bill introduced to Congress — the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act — found that its rising carbon price would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 37 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. That result would more than double the 16 percent that American emissions are anticipated to fall during that same period under current policies. However, the analysis found that the bulk of these emissions reductions would come from the electricity sector, while carbon pollution from other sectors like transportation would remain relatively high. For example, the resulting increase in gasoline prices by around $1 per gallon on its own would be insufficient to dramatically reduce American vehicular fuel consumption.
Complementary Policies Are Needed
Similarly, the En-ROADS model also shows that a carbon tax alone would dramatically reduce the share of energy generated by coal, leading to continued high emissions as a result of more oil and gas production.
Oil consumption can be reduced in the En-ROADS model by strengthening vehicle fuel efficiency and electrification policies. In the real world, this approach translates to policies like vehicle fuel economy standards, which can mandate increased efficiency and thus accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. Projects to improve and electrify public transportation systems can also reduce demand for oil. Natural gas consumption can similarly be reduced by expanding energy efficiency and electrification of buildings and industrial activities. Together, the En-ROADS model suggests that these steps could curb global warming by one-half a degree Celsius.
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. Combined with a carbon tax, these policies could achieve the Paris climate targets, if implemented globally. However, the En-ROADS tool illustrates just how difficult it will be to meet those goals, and how many different large-scale policies must be implemented to do so.
Meeting the Paris targets would require that countries around the world soon begin implementing aggressive climate policies targeting the many different sectors of the economy that generate large-scale greenhouse gas emissions. Pricing carbon pollution is one of the single most effective steps to curb emissions, but achieving the Paris goals will require additional complementary policies.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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