[Skip to content]

Sign up for our daily newsletter
The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

New ‘carbon law’ proposed to defeat climate change

A legislative carbon roadmap has been proposed by an international team of scientists to halve fossil fuel emissions each decade and practically eradicate them by 2050.

Civilisation needs to reach a "socio-economic tipping point" ©Shutterstock
Civilisation needs to reach a "socio-economic tipping point" ©Shutterstock

The solution, published today in the journal Science, involves an exponential roll-out of renewables, and ramping up of technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere, in conjunction with reducing emissions.

This should see fossil fuel emissions peak by 2020 at the latest, and fall to around zero by midway through this century to meet the UN’s Paris Agreement’s climate goal of limiting the global temperature rise to well below 2°C.

“Humanity must embark on a decisive transformation towards complete decarbonisation,” International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, deputy director general, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, said.

“The ‘carbon law’ is a powerful strategy and roadmap for ramping down emissions to zero so as to stay within the global carbon budget for stabilising climate to less than 2°C above preindustrial levels."

The proposal would see the end of coal use in 2030-35, and oil between 2040-45, if all cities, nations and industrial sectors abide by the plan, which was inspired by Moore’s Law in the computer industry.

This states that computer processors double in power about every two years, and although not an exact science, is described as a golden rule that has held for 50 years and still drives disruptive innovation.

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research director, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, said: “Our civilisation needs to reach a socio-economic tipping point soon, and this roadmap shows just how this can happen.

“Businesses who try to avoid those steps and keep on tiptoeing will miss the next industrial revolution and thereby their best opportunity for a profitable future."

This proposal comes after the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published a report earlier this week, suggesting that energy-related CO2 emissions can be reduced by 70% by 2050, while boosting global GDP by 0.8%.

“Critically, the economic case for the energy transition has never been stronger. Today around the world, renewable power plants are being built that will generate electricity for less cost than fossil fuel power plants,” IRENA director-general Adnan Z Amin, said.

“And through 2050, the decarbonisation can fuel sustainable economic growth and create more new jobs in renewables.”

Sign up to our free newsletter here and receive a weekly roundup of news concerning the actuarial profession