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Lifestyle changes can limit global warming, meet mitigation goals

In theory, combating climate change is simple: reduce the world’s carbon emissions, find a way to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, and transition to sustainable, renewable and efficient sources of energy. Easy, right?

Sadly, even though the Paris Accord and other similar efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change have seen worldwide support, we’re still quite a ways from seeing substantial policy changes to reduce global warming.

Part of what makes climate change policies so difficult to implement are the rising demands for energy coupled with the need to raise living standards in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and South America.

A new study conducted by researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems shows for the first time that it is possible to limit global warming and still meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for the global South.

The study was published in the journal Nature Energy, and the results outline ways to limit global warming to 1.5 Degrees Celsius by dramatically changing the way we travel, heat and cool homes, and use smart technology.

“A rapid downsizing of the global energy system between now and 2050 makes it much more feasible to transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewables and electricity to provide for development needs while limiting the impacts of climate change,” said Charlie Wilson, the study’s co-author.

For the study, the researchers examined a wide range of available technologies and innovations that could help reduce emissions if they became mainstream.

The researchers compared these innovations to studies of energy use in transportation, homes, offices, and manufacturing and discovered that a 2-4 fold reduction in energy was possible while still meeting rising energy demands.

Some possibilities to improve energy efficiency include putting vehicles with increased occupancy on the road, investing more in single digital technology like smartphones, renovating homes to reduce heating and cooling costs, and urging people to eat less red meat.

With significant efforts from policymakers to reduce global energy demand by 40 percent by 2050, the researchers discovered that it would be possible to meet the world’s energy needs and mitigate climate change.

“Not only does our scenario show how to meet the 1.5°C climate target based on evidence on what is already possible, it also shows how this dramatic reversal in global emission trends supports a wide range of development objectives in the global South, from rising living standards to cleaner air and improved health,” said Wilson.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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