To meet the 1.5-degree goal, we can emit a limited amount of carbon dioxide – our carbon dioxide budget.
If we start now and reduce at a steady and furious pace, then emissions must stop completely in 2038. But we will continue to release as today, the budget will end already in 2029, in eight years.
Researchers warn that the climate’s self-reinforcing mechanisms can be started already above 1.5 degrees, which makes it impossible to then slow down warming.
The solutions that dominate the climate policy debate today are about investments in new technology. But this will reduce emissions in the future, as most of the carbon budget has already been spent.
Here are examples of climate policy that miss the time perspective.
There is research around how to make steel with hydrogen, which can reduce emissions by 90 percent (if the electricity is emission-free). Today’s test facility is, however, not expected to be completed until 2026 and by 2030 at the earliest, it is hoped to have increased production to 2.7 million tonnes of fossil-free steel per year.
Today, Swedish SSAB produces around 5 million tonnes of ore-based crude steel per year. This means that emissions will not start to decrease until 2026 and by 2030, emissions have halved. Since the carbon budget is then almost exhausted, emissions in 2030 must go from halfway down to zero, just three years later.
In addition to the known environmental problems of nuclear power, it can also not reduce emissions until new power plants are completed and all transport and industries are electrified.
A nuclear power plant takes 5 to 20 years to complete. After five years, it must phase out all fossil energy for the next five years. The same applies to the construction of railways, new electricity networks, climate-neutral houses and so on. All that takes time. And if emissions are not made more expensive, there is a risk that new energy will only increase energy use.
The government wants to introduce a ban on petrol and diesel cars from 2030. But the average life expectancy for passenger cars is around 17 years. A full ban on new fossil cars in 2025 also means that petrol and diesel cars will roll on the roads until 2037 or longer.
In Sweden, replacing fossil fuels with biofuels from the forest is a popular policy measure, which in the statistics seems to reduce emissions here and now. But when trees are burned, the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere increases, just as with fossil combustion.
Newly planted trees do not have time to bind that carbon dioxide until 30-100 years from now. It is not enough that the growth rate of the trees is higher than the rate of felling. Carbon sinks such as forests must be preserved and expanded, while fossil emissions are being phased out.
Technology change is absolutely central, but in parallel, powerful political instruments are required for phasing out the unsustainable.
Consumption emissions and natural resource use can also not be ignored.
We need to change the content of the economy. When we raise the price of environmental degradation, innovation is stimulated, but we must also be able to handle the fact that industrial production, travel and consumption need to be reduced in scope.
The change can still give us a better life. Environmental taxes can be designed progressively or returned directly to the population.
We can get cleaner air, greener cities, healthier food, smarter systems for sharing things. A more equal distribution of resources strengthened public welfare and more free time with family, friends and nature.
Shallow dive: We need as humans to start acting now, there is no time to wait. We need participation by all to make the transition. There is still a lot of open questions, man poor people drive cars that are older than 17 years, they would not be able to afford to buy an electric car, what will they do?
Time to debate and act.
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