The daunting math of climate mitigation



  • McKinsey's Scary Climate Math

    McKinsey, the global management consulting firm, recently released a report looking at the scale of change required across food, transport, industry, power, and carbon capture to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. I've written an article on Medium discussing its findings as well as some broader takeaways and interesting work underway by clean technology startups to meet the challenges identified in the report.

    This is my first post on the topic so I would greatly appreciate feedback! Thanks.



  • @Josh Interesting article, which of the streams you listed in the post do you think holds the most promise?

    I'm particularly interested in "Pareto principle" solutions, where typically 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.



  • Hi Cali, great question. Easy answer is decarbonizing the energy supply (factor four) coupled with electrification (parts of factors two and three), but I think the worrisome takeaway of McKinsey's analysis is that we truly do need to do everything, albeit with some flexibility in proportions, if we're going to have a chance of limiting the temperature increase in 1.5C. I'm most confident in our ability to decarbonize energy given the market incentive from the incredible fall in solar/wind prices and innovation happening in storage, but the other factors require much stronger nudges from government and especially international collaboration, which has been sorely lacking.



  • @Josh Thanks for sharing your writing.

    I think part of the issue is the lack of cohesive global action. Some countries and regions are much more progressive than others. For example, the area in which I live is driven almost entirely by renewable energy. Neighboring jurisdictions are decidedly not - which is frustrating because I can't vote to make change in that area. Climate change is a truly global challenge though. Would love to hear any thoughts you might have on solving these type of systemic difficulties



  • @Felix-G Thanks for reading!

    I think you touch on the key frustration here, which is that climate change is a global problem, but it feels near impossible to imagine global alignment and follow through on the decisive actions required. The Paris climate accords are a good model of legally binding action - but most agree the targets were not nearly aggressive enough, and even, then, many countries have fallen behind their goal - see Australia trying to engage in creative emissions accounting to hit their target.

    There's a lot more hope at the regional level. For example, in Canada, British Columbia's carbon tax blazed a trail for the eventual national adoption of the tax. Lots to argue about in terms of implementation and whether it goes far enough fast enough, but I think it shows that "overachieving" in a locality can have national, even global consequences. The jurisdictions that decarbonize fastest will act as the model for others to follow. The longer Canada has a carbon tax, the easier it will be for other political parties in other countries to point to it as an example that can be adopted locally.

    Ultimately, I think global agreements will lag individual states and cities. If your area is driven almost entirely by renewable energy - great! What other parts of the climate puzzle can be addressed in your local area? Electric vehicle incentives? Prodding local industries to decarbonize? Protecting forests? There are some interesting global alliances of cities trying to get ahead of the curve with respect to climate - for example, https://www.c40.org


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