Tackling climate change is essentially a joint action. If everyone maintains their current lifestyle and behavior, there will be no difference in personal activities; But if we all wait for each other to change, no one will ever do that and we will not be able to make any progress. Climate change is an irresistible problem – logically affecting all areas of our lives – the greatest of our time – and it is important to understand exactly where emissions are most important and where the greatest opportunities for policy action are important. Very few people have this macro image.
That is why we need to understand the details of climate change in a way that makes it clear that we all have a role to play and prioritize so that we are empowered to work. In this blog, we try to outline quantitative parameters to solve the problem.
The opening question is: How much are we emitting?
The question seems simple but the answer is not straightforward. Where and how we live makes a huge difference in the shape of our climate footprints.
By 2022, the world population is expected to emit approximately 58 gigatonnes (GT) of greenhouse gas emissions (all types of emissions – CO2 and non-CO2 gases – including methane). One GT is one billion tons. If we divide the 58 GT by 7.85 billion people, we get 7.4 tons per year, which is the climate footprint of the average world citizen.
In a Western economy, it is now rarely possible for the climate to be neutral, that is, zero net emissions. Even if someone drives an electric car (or doesn’t have a car at all), travels on a plane, and doesn’t eat meat, there will be significant emissions. If that person lives and works in a building, showers a few times a week, and uses public transport, the emissions occur in ways we don’t normally think of: the cement industry (for the materials used in building a building), the chemical industry (which produces soaps and shampoos). ), Or the steel industry (which supplies materials for public buses and trains).
Broadly speaking, we have five major drivers of emissions. Here’s how they add up to an average of 7.4 tons emitted by a typical global citizen:
- Electricity (2.7 tons). More than one-third of total emissions are due to energy production, mostly in the form of electricity. Coal is responsible for more than half of all electricity-related emissions.
- Industrial (1.8 Tons). This includes making everyday products such as cosmetics and newspapers, durable cement or metal used in buildings.
- Transport (1.1 tons). Road transport — cars, buses and trucks কারণ account for the largest share of emissions in this sector, about 0.6 tons per capita. The rest comes from ships, planes and railways.
- Agriculture (1.5 tons). Food production accounts for about 10 percent of global emissions, with meat production contributing the most, at 0.46 tons per capita. Land conversion currently adds 0.7 tons per capita, but through afforestation and reforestation, it could be a significant driver of future emissions reduction.
- Building (0.4 tons). Outside of construction alone, buildings also need to be heated and cooled, resulting in excess and constant emissions.
People in rich countries emit more than people in poor countries. However, there are also significant differences between similar income countries. For example, the average French person emits four times less than the average Australian (see Figure 1). Among the G-20 economies, the highest per capita emissions are from Australia (26 tons), Saudi Arabia (25 tons), Canada (24 tons), the United States (19 tons) and Russia (16 tons). Citizens of China, Germany and South Africa are emitting significantly more than the world average, while residents of Mexico, along with the European economy, are emitting slightly less than the global average; The average Indian emits less than half of it. And overall, the ingredients are quite different across the country.
Figure 1. The average Australian emits about 8 times more than his Indian counterpart
Source: World Data Lab Estimates based on data from Minx et al 2021.
The next question is:
Can we create a world with net zero emissions so that everyone can thrive and prosper while maintaining strong economic growth?
The numerous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and highlights by leading climate researchers will be extremely challenging to bring the world on the path to net-zero emissions as this will require profound changes in our economic systems and our personal behavior. Even under conservative estimates, the world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. On average, the standard of living will be higher in the future than it is today. This is good news for the fight against poverty, but also bad news for the climate – unless we make a fundamental change in how the economy is organized.
So, back to our initial problem:
How do we begin to change?
An important starting point is to create better and more efficient data that allows each of us to link individual and collective activities and choices with real results in our country. You may be wondering how data alone can help, so let us explain.
First, in order to prioritize action, we need to rise to the top of the major drivers of global emissions in order to understand the significance of key sectors in a particular country. We need to better understand where emissions are still rising and where they are falling (about 40 countries have already begun to reduce their climate footprint, albeit mostly from very high levels). The global emission clock will provide a forecast for comparing how countries are performing in current activities, their committed nationally determined contributions, and the paths they should take in a globally efficient 1.5-degree Celsius situation.
Second, new technologies and better data can be used to address specific emissions sources. For example, the Global Forest Watch of the World Resource Institute has developed a sophisticated data model for real-time forest fire monitoring and response in Indonesia, demonstrating workable mitigation conditions and response capabilities.
Third, better data can help us manage our logistics better. Today, many resources are wasted because we produce, transport, and store products inefficiently (in places where they are not needed or already). Food loss and waste is a good example – more than 30 percent of grown food is never eaten.
Providing better climate data to transform our operations is a fundamental ambition to drive the development of global emission clocks.. We look forward to presenting it in the next installment of our blog.