5 years ago

A human-scale perspective on global warming: Zero emission year and personal quotas

Claudia Mac Lean, Maisa Rojas, Alberto de la Fuente

by Alberto de la Fuente, Maisa Rojas, Claudia Mac Lean

This article builds on the premise that human consumption of goods, food and transport are the ultimate drivers of climate change. However, the nature of the climate change problem (well described as a tragedy of the commons) makes it difficult for individuals to recognise their personal duty to implement behavioural changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, this article aims to analyse the climate change issue from a human-scale perspective, in which each of us has a clearly defined personal quota of CO2 emissions that limits our activity and there is a finite time during which CO2 emissions must be eliminated to achieve the “well below 2°C” warming limit set by the Paris Agreement of 2015 (COP21). Thus, this work’s primary contribution is to connect an equal per capita fairness approach to a global carbon budget, linking personal levels with planetary levels. Here, we show that a personal quota of 5.0 tons of CO2 yr-1 p-1 is a representative value for both past and future emissions; for this level of a constant per-capita emissions and without considering any mitigation, the global accumulated emissions compatible with the “well below 2°C” and 2°C targets will be exhausted by 2030 and 2050, respectively. These are references years that provide an order of magnitude of the time that is left to reverse the global warming trend. More realistic scenarios that consider a smooth transition toward a zero-emission world show that the global accumulated emissions compatible with the “well below 2°C” and 2°C targets will be exhausted by 2040 and 2080, respectively. Implications of this paper include a return to personal responsibility following equity principles among individuals, and a definition of boundaries to the personal emissions of CO2.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179705

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