Making it to a 2.0°C world will likely require a global reduction in consumption


Plotting the global CO2 emissions since 1850 and comparing them to IPCC data shows that to have an 83% chance to stay below a 2.0°C global warming path global emissions must be divided by ~4 in the next 30 years.

Kaya’s identity offers a way to understand the impact of such a goal on the global economy

If CO2 emissions must be divided by 4 in the next 3 decades, the right part of the equation must also be divided by 4. A closer look at each term shows that this would likely require a global reduction in GDP per Capita:

  • World population is expected to grow by ~30% by 2050 (UN)
  • The Energy intensity of GDP has been reduced by ~35% in the past 30 years (data)and we could reasonably expect a similar outcome in the coming 30 years. Energy efficiency is an engineering problem and given its impact on companies bottom lines it is usually a priority in the corporate world. We can therefore expect sustained efforts on this topic in the coming years.
  • It means that the GDP per Capita X Carbon Content of Energy must be divided by ~3.4 by 2050 and that any effort that is not done on one must be done on the other

If we want to keep the same GDP per capita for the next 30 years, the Carbon Content of Energy must therefore be divided by 3.4 in the same period, or a reduction of 70% vs current levels. In the past 30 years it was only reduced by 6%, despite the “new renewable boom” of the last decade and the development of nuclear capacity.

It would be dangerous to bet the future of climate change and of our planet on technological changes far from those that we have been able to achieve in the past similar period.

Reducing global GDP per capita seems a much safer choice to prevent the consequences of climate change.