Global Calculator 2050 to energize the climate debate
Family in Dhaka

The Global Calculator 2050 is expected to energize the climate debate by exploring various scenarios of the relationship between human activities and GHG emissions up until the year 2050. Photo by Shawn.

Update July 21, 2014: The Global Calculator is live! Visit to try the beta version of the Calculator. 

Part I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report recently confirmed that atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases (GHG) carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) have all increased since the year 1750 due to human activity. The Global Calculator 2050, a new tool announced on September 20 and currently undergoing development, will energize the debate around climate change by exploring various scenarios of the relationship between human activities and GHG emissions up until the year 2050. The project, spearheaded by the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), will expand the models of existing country-level calculators to a global scale, allowing users to see the impacts of varying development strategies with one easy to use tool. It will be released in time for the 2015 UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 21).

This will be the first tool to provide a simple platform for business leaders, NGOs, and governments to analyze the aggregated amount of CO2 emissions from several sectors – including transport, energy production, agriculture, and forestry – at a global level. Different levers built into the tool will allow users to test different levels of ambition and effort across sectors, and observe the 2050 outcome of each scenario. The Global Calculator 2050 will play an important role in upcoming climate discussions by using a foundation of deep science to help guide users and decision-makers on where to focus efforts to combat climate change. Since cities are the locus of 70% of the world’s GHG emissions, the Global Calculator will help demonstrate the importance of advancing solutions in sustainable urban mobility systems and innovative urban planning.

Global Calculator 2050 will provide transparent, trustworthy platform to assess and compare global development pathways

The Global Calculator 2050 will build on successful country level GHG emissions calculators from the U.K., China, South Korea, and Belgium. There are 14 more national calculators under development in Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hungary, Serbia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Algeria. Poland, Russia, France, the United States, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Nigeria are also discussing developing their own national calculators.

The primary purpose of the Global Calculator 2050 is to test the feasibility of various potential development pathways by 2050. It will aggregate the amount of CO2 emissions from key sectors following four potential scenarios: business as usual, two intermediate scenarios, and the most sustainable scenario possible. It will be the first tool to do this on a global level in a transparent, trustworthy, and user-friendly manner, thereby expanding the audience it will reach and impact.

The Global Calculator is being designed to allow testing of different levels of effort and ambition from the transport, energy production, agriculture, and forestry sectors. It will assess and graphically represent the balance of ambitions between these sectors, along with their impact in terms of land consumption, food, energy balance, sea level rise, and sea acidification. As the user adjusts the effort from each sector towards reducing CO2 emissions, the outcomes will change and the potentially detrimental effects that could occur in 2050 will become visible.

International team develops Global Calculator 2050

The Global Calculator is being developed by an international team of high level institutions led by the U.K.’s DECC. Other team members include the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank that focuses on the intersection of the environment and socio-economic development*, the Energy Research and Development International of China, Ernst & Young India, Climact, the Climate Media Factory in Germany, Imperial College London, and The London School of Economics and Political Science.

The target audience for the Global Calculator will be public and private decision-makers, unions, private firms, and environmental NGOs – gaining their trust is the key to ensuring the tool will be utilized. However, it will also be available to a broader audience of individuals. Anyone with an internet connection will now be able to explore the trade-off of efforts to mitigate climate change in different sectors, and contribute to the climate debate with a better understanding of different global development pathways and their outcomes by 2050.

Energizing the Climate Debate by facilitating greater understanding

By providing a tool for anyone to compare various scenarios of human efforts to address climate change, the Global Calculator will complement climate discussions and negotiations.. The finalized tool will be released in mid-2014, at the same time as the Working Group II and III of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Action 2020 Report, and the New Climate Economy Report. It is hoped that this coordinated release date will build momentum and support for action on climate change as COP 21 draws nearer.

As Part I of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report revealed, climate change is a scientific reality – right now is the opportune moment to catalyze efforts to mitigate climate change. The Global Calculator 2050 will help propel our cities and countries forward by providing easy to access global data on a simple platform already trusted at a national level.

To find out more about the Global Calculator please visit the DECC’s website or contact EMBARQ’s Erin Cooper.

*the producer of this blog is EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport program of WRI

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