The Biggest Climate Change Factor Isn't Population Growth, So What Is It?

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 2 years ago | News

Image: Natasha Poly photographed by Mario Testino. Image source.

Growth of the population has long been linked to increased carbon emissions, but a recent study by the University of California (UC) shows that this isn’t actually the primary cause of climate change. According to new research by Dick Startz, a professor in UC Santa Barbara's Department of Economics, along with colleagues from the University of Washington and Upstart, “the major contributing factor in climate change over time was not population growth, but carbon intensity, which is a measure of carbon dioxide per unit of gross domestic product."

Worryingly, their research also suggests that it’s now unlikely we will be able to achieve the global temperature goals set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016. And nearly unfathomable that the collective 195 nations will be capable of exceeding expectations. In response to the goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius, r example, Startz posits a 95% chance that temperatures will rise by more than this and a less than 1% chance that they will not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. In other words then, things are looking pretty bleak. 

Either way though, the solution is not simply to have less babies, the researchers argue. "For a lot of history, carbon intensity rises for a while, reaches a peak, and then starts to fall," Startz explains. "Our predictions assume that carbon intensity is going to continue to trend downward, as it has been. That still leaves us in a mess. The only thing that is going to get us out of it is finding a way to make carbon intensity fall much more quickly than it has been."

If we do have any hope of saving planet earth from its inevitable warming though, Startz says the two potential solutions will be equally challenging: either we need to see some major technological innovations in terms of battery power, or we need put a high price tag on pollution. "We can hope for some magic breakthrough or we can do the unpleasant task of charging more when we're polluting," he commented, "but even that might not be enough." Conservatively speaking, the report’s findings are incredibly worrying. At the other end of the spectrum though, they are utterly catastrophic. "Believe me," Startz admitted, "there's nothing we would like better than to be wrong."

Via Science Daily

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