Scientists call for ‘carbon law’ to curb emissions

Researchers are calling for a new carbon roadmap based on a simple rule of thumb or ‘carbon law’ of halving emissions every decade. Based on Moore’s Law in the computer industry, this carbon law would apply to cities, nations and industrial sectors.

An international team of climate scientists have stated that fossil-fuel emissions should peak by 2020 at the latest and fall to around zero by 2050 to meet the UN’s Paris Agreement’s climate goal of limiting the global temperature rise to “well below 2°C” from pre-industrial times.

To achieve this, they are calling for a ‘carbon law’ or carbon roadmap that halves emissions every decade, arguing that such an approach would ensure that the greatest efforts to reduce emissions happen sooner not later. Such measures should be complemented by an equally ambitious roll-out of renewables.

In fact, we are already at the start of this trajectory, lead author Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre said in a statement. “In the last decade, the share of renewables in the energy sector has doubled every 5.5 years. If doubling continues at this pace fossil fuels will exit the energy sector well before 2050.”

Using their roadmap, the authors pinpoint the end of coal in 2030-2035 and oil between 2040-2045. To remain on this trajectory, they argue that all sectors of the economy need decadal carbon roadmaps that follow this rule of thumb, modelled on Moore’s Law.

Moore’s Law states that computer processors double in power about every two years. While this is neither a natural nor legal law, many describe it as a “golden rule” that has held for 50 years and still drives disruptive innovation.

One the main advantages of such a ‘carbon law’ is that it offers a flexible way of thinking about how to reduce carbon emissions. It can also be applied throughout the world irrespective of borders or economic sectors, on both regional and global scales.

According to the researchers, the ‘carbon law’ would give the world a 75 per cent chance of keeping Earth below 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures.

“Humanity must embark on a decisive transformation towards complete decarbonisation,” said co-author Nebojsa Nakicenovic from IIASA. “The ‘carbon law’ is a powerful strategy and roadmap for ramping down emissions to zero so as to stay within the global carbon budget for stabilising climate to less than 2°C above preindustrial levels.”


Image credit: Rich, flickr/Creative Commons

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