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Paris Climate Goals Can Be Reached Without Carbon Capture Tech, Landmark Study Finds

A groundbreaking study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is the first to map a pathway to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels without relying on negative emissions technologies that suck carbon dioxide from the the atmosphere, an IIASA press release reported.


Instead, the study published Monday in Nature Energy found that the more ambitious Paris agreement target can be reached through innovations in the energy efficiency of daily activities. Changes to heating, cooling, transport, appliances and technological devices could both limit climate change and meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals to improve quality of life in the global South, the study found.

"Our analysis shows how a range of new social, behavioral and technological innovations, combined with strong policy support for energy efficiency and low-carbon development can help reverse the historical trajectory of ever-rising energy demand," IIASA acting program director and lead study author Arnulf Grubler said in the press release.

The report focused on innovations that were currently available and calculated what would happen if they were applied at scale. It found that doing so could reduce the energy required for transportation, heating and cooling and meeting the physical needs of the world's population by two to four times.

The paper further explained that the success of its scenario relied on the willingness of populations, governments and businesses to make the changes it advocates.

"The global community from world leaders and multinational corporations down to individual consumers and citizens need to act in concert to avoid dangerous climate change while improving human wellbeing. Our scenario offers a roadmap as to how this can be achieved," Grubler said.

Markers on that roadmap included ride-sharing fleets of electric vehicles that could reduce transport energy demand by 60 percent by 2050. Increased energy standards for new buildings and renovations for old ones could reduce energy demand from heating and cooling by 75 percent by 2050. The report further found that changing individual habits on a global scale could make a huge difference. The expanded use of smartphones to do the work of what would have previously been several devices, accompanied by a shift in the younger generation from owning material goods to accessing services as needed could limit the growth in global energy demand to 15 percent by 2050. And following a healthy diet that replaced red meat calories with something else could lower agriculture energy demand and lead to increased forest cover the combined size of Bangladesh and Italy by 2050.

The report concluded that reducing overall global energy demand 40 percent by 2050, combined with projected renewable energy growth, would succeed in limiting warming 1.5 degrees without the need for negative emissions.

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