PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has issued a major report making clear that it is possible to avoid catastrophic warming while maintaining economic growth — and that energy efficiency is the key.
The report, “The World in 2050: Implications of global growth for carbon emissions and climate change policy,” deserves attention because it comes from one of the largest mainstream consulting companies in the world.
The world’s goal MUST be to keep warming to at most 2°C warming from pre-industrial levels and that requires a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from current levels by 2050. The two key questions that any economic report must answer are 1) what is the best way to achieve these cuts and 2) what is the cost of action?
The strategy for achieving these reductions can be found in the figure on the right (click to expand). Whatever your favorite supply-side solution (renewables, nuclear, capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide from fossil fuel plants), the key lesson from that chart is that the biggest contributor comes from accelerated use of energy efficiency (better lighting, heating, cooling, electric motors, and the like).
What is the cost? John Hawksworth, head of macroeconomics at PwC’s UK firm, explains:
“Our analysis suggests that there are technologically feasible and relatively low-cost options for controlling carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Estimates suggest that the level of GDP might be reduced by no more than around 2-3% in 2050 if this strategy was followed, equivalent to sacrificing only around a year of economic growth for the sake of reducing carbon emissions in 2050 by around 60% compared to our baseline scenario”.
Seems like a reasonable price to avoid trillions of dollars in climate damages this century alone.