Carbon calculator for the UK

The Guardian has done a great service by developing and putting on-line this cool carbon calculator. It is a visualization tool that lets ordinary folks, and politicians (as there is an election campaign on right now), plug in their choices about how to meet GHG emission targets. They even share the back end spreadsheet, so we may have to mash up a Canadian version soon.

Getting the numbers down is surprisingly tricky, and all of the easy moves on the board, like efficiency gains and electrification of transportation still leave a surprising gap to be filled. The UK starts with just over 1 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. To get to an 80% reduction for 2050 ultimately required reductions in consumption; real reductions as in kg of stuff. It also required changes in food diet and the amount of food that gets wasted.

One thing I really like is the electricity balancing act box. To get rid of coal, oil and gas-fired electricity, a massive ramp-up in renewable sources is needed, more if displacing nuclear is also an objective

I then tried to decarbonize the economy, but alas I was only able to get a 94% reduction, even with all the sliders at their maximum for mitigation. Of the 65 Mt of emissions that remained (about the size of BC’s emissions), 57 Mt were from the manufacture and consumption of stuff. My best effort saw people reduce travel by 95% and consumption by 98%, which probably shows how hard it will be to lose those last few percent.

One shortcoming is the lack of data on capital costs associated with making changes or any other sense that this is going to cost people, either through an overt or an implicit carbon price. Also, I’d jazz it up with a bit of distributional analysis. But hey, this is complicated stuff, and those refinements can come later.

One comment

  • I do like this and the 350.org objectives of shifting understand of climate change to Carbon dioxide levels. It allows the complexity to become a lot less jagged. At the heart is to get the carbon level into the minds of people rather then whether it is snowing in Washington in April. So tools such as this and constructs such as carbon foot prints will become a whole lot more mainstream.

    It was good to hear the CAW officially endorse and link up with 350.org

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