By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA, Jan 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world can improve living standards for all while cutting climate-changing emissions to keep to an internationally agreed limit for global warming, a team led by the British government said on Wednesday.
It launched an online calculator (www.globalcalculator.org) allowing businesses, governments, researchers and the public to explore how different ways of pursuing economic development to 2050 will shape carbon emissions and rising temperatures.
Even though the world's population is set to rise to 10 billion by 2050 from 7 billion today, the tool shows it is possible for everyone to eat well, travel further and live in more comfortable homes, without pushing global temperature rise above 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change said.
But to achieve that, we must use energy more efficiently, shift away from fossil fuels, protect forests and make smarter use of land, it added.
"The calculator clearly highlights that we can meet our 2°C target while maintaining good lifestyles - but we need to set ambitious targets on all fronts and use innovation to address climate change," said Mike Cherrett, director of operations at Climate-KIC, a European public-private partnership that jointly funded the tool.
A report on insights from the calculator said plausible pathways to the 2 degree goal suggest the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of electricity globally needs to fall by at least 90 percent by 2050, for example.
Around one third of our cars should be electric or hydrogen by 2050, and the proportion of households that heat their homes using cleaner electric or zero-carbon sources should rise from 5 percent today to 25 to 50 percent by 2050.
The world's forests should be expanded by around 5 to 15 percent by 2050 because they act as a valuable carbon sink, the report recommended.
"Making this transition to low carbon will require a massive effort across all sectors and action must start urgently," it said.
Technological and land management reforms must be extended throughout this century so the world no longer emits more greenhouse gases than it absorbs by 2100, to be on track for the 2 degree target, it added.
"Strong leadership from businesses, civil society and politicians is essential to support urgent action to cut emissions through an ambitious global deal in the December 2015 (U.N. climate) negotiations," it said.
Countries including China, India and Colombia are using national versions of the tool to craft their own economic, energy and climate change policies.
"Britain's global calculator can help the world's crucial climate debate this year," UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said in a statement.
But the tool cannot determine in which countries new technologies should be rolled out, who should pay for them, nor how consumption should be distributed because it only looks at world averages, the UK government noted. (Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Tim Pearce)