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Our midcentury climate goals require radical change today

A recent article in MIT Technology Review summarizes the findings of the International Energy Agency's (IEA) annual report, released on Tuesday. The report finds that to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by mid-century, a threshold that many scientists believe is necessary to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, the world would need to achieve roughly net-zero emissions by 2050. IEA's report underscores the drastic need for governments to act immediately, and far more aggressively than we have to date.

The article goes on to list some of the milestones to achieve net zero emissions by midcentury and avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming:

  • Slash global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% from 2010 levels.
  • Increase the share of renewables like wind, solar, and geothermal power in worldwide electricity generation from 27% to 60%.
  • Nearly quintuple annual additions of solar power.
  • Cut coal demand by 60%.
  • Ensure that half of all air conditioners sold are the most efficient models available.
  • Reduce demand for “primary energy” (all energy sources in their raw form) by 17%.

This stark scenario would require unparalleled changes across the entire energy system, as well as changes in personal behavior. For instance, study recommends that flights of under one hour should be replaced with lower-emission options such as hydrogen trains or buses, and any trips of under 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) should be done by walking or biking. 

Our midcentury climate goals require radical change today, MIT Technology Review