What can humanity do to keep global temperature increases versus pre-industrial levels below 1.5°C by 2100? That is the range of increase virtually all climate scientists say we need to stay at or below to keep most of the planet livable in ways that would be recognizable to most of us.
En-ROADS, an easy-to-use climate policy simulation model, can help show us the way.
It provides anyone with a computer with the ability to explore the impacts a combination of technological advances (i.e. dramatic increases in adoption of renewable energy, electric transportation) and policy changes (i.e. carbon pricing, energy efficiency requirements) will have on global temperature increases over the next 80 years.
What insights, if any, does En-ROADS have for the sports industry?
GreenSportsBlog offers a look.
If you are reading GreenSportsBlog, you are very likely concerned about, interested in and/or terrified by the climate crisis.
Friends, En-ROADS is for you, especially if you enjoy playing computer simulation games.
Developed by MIT’s Sloan School of Business, and nonprofit think tank Climate Interactive, En-ROADS allows users — whose number includes members of Congress, the UN Secretary-General’s Office, university professors around the world, community groups, Bill Nye The Science Guy, and many others — to move energy policy and technological innovation levers and then see the projected impacts on future temperature increases.
Check out this three minute video to understand how En-ROADS works.
En-ROADS is addictive, fun and scary.
Its two-panel display shows humanity’s current temperature increase trajectory out to 2100. The left panel projects our energy source mix; global temperature increases versus pre-industrial levels are on the right.
Play with it for awhile and you’ll get the addictive and fun parts.
The next three images illustrate its scary aspects.
Business as usual takes us to a 4.1°C global temperature increase versus pre-industrial levels by 2100. That is more than twice the rate of the 1.5°C increase most climate scientists say is the upper end of safe, with safe meaning we will have a livable planet.
This is unsustainable and scary. Very scary.
So, what can humanity do?
One scenario is to plant a lot of CO₂-absorbing trees.
Tree planting is the centerpiece of the new climate plan offered up recently by the Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA), as some in the GOP have started to realize that it can no longer deny the reality of climate change if it wants to remain relevant to millennial and GenZ voters. I guess McCarthy & Co. believes they have to at least appear to be doing something. But they are to this point allergic to doing anything to rein in fossil fuel production.
Ergo, tree planting.
So, using En-ROADS, we can see what moving the afforestation (aka tree planting) lever all the way over to the right — which translates to planting trees on 100 percent of all available land on Earth (you read that right) starting this year — does to temperature increase.
Not much, as it turns out.
The “tree planting on steroids” approach puts us on track for a 4.0°C global temperature increase by 2100, which represents only a 0.1°C decrease versus business-as-usual.
On to a much more aggressive Plan B.
Let’s make electric mobility the norm (increasing five percent per year starting in 2020), provide the incentives (En-ROADS uses a subsidy that tops out at 7¢/kilowatt hour subsidy) so renewable energy scales significantly and, also institute policies that lead buildings and industry to become much more energy efficient.
Pushing those En-ROADS levers to the max has to get us to a 1.5°C increase by 2100, right?
En-ROADS tells us that these massive changes would move humanity in the right direction — global temperature still increases by 3.2°C by 2100. That is better than tree planting but does not get us close to 1.5°C.
CARBON PRICING, METHANE REDUCTION, AND OTHER CARBON CAPTURE MUST PLAY KEY ROLES IN GETTING US TO 1.5°C INCREASE
Is there a combination of policies and technological advances that will keep us to a 1.5°C increase by 2100?
Yes, but it will take a Herculean global effort.
It turns out that, per En-ROADS’ models, carbon pricing — a tax or fee on the production and/or importation of fossil fuel-based energy — is the most effective policy to slow temperature rise significantly. Phasing in a global carbon price that starts at $25/metric tonne of CO₂, in 2020, ultimately rising to $250/metric tonnes of CO₂ (essentially $2.50/gallon) in 2030 will by itself get us from 4.1°C to 3.0°C by 2100.
Adding in the aforementioned scaling up of electric mobility, renewable energy as well as building and industrial efficiency, further bends the temperature increase curve down to a 2.4°C increase.
We’re getting closer.
Dramatic reductions of methane and nitrous oxide will get us closer still.
Methane, a much more potent GHG than CO₂, is released into the atmosphere by cows, from other facets of industrial agriculture, as a byproduct of fracking, and from decomposing waste in landfills. Nitrous oxide comes from fertilizers. Reducing both, again starting now and at maximum possible levels, takes us down to a 2.0°C increase by 2100.
But 2.0°C isn’t 1.5°C.
What will it take to go all the way?
In addition to all of the above, it will take maxing out the carbon capture lever — sequestering or burying CO₂ well below the earth’s surface — to keep us to the 1.5°C increase by 2100.
En-ROADS is clear: Keeping global temperature increase versus pre-industrial levels to 1.5°C by 2100 is one hell of a challenge.
But isn’t sports all about overcoming challenges?
WHAT DOES EN-ROADS TELL THE SPORTS INDUSTRY
It seems to me that En-ROADS has three important lessons for the sports industry.
Communicate the Need for Climate Action to Fans NOW
All En-ROADS scenarios that successfully keep the global temperature increase within the 1.5°C range by 2100 have one thing in common: Aggressive, global policy action and technological innovation, beginning in 2020.
Such efforts will require massive levels of public, corporate and government support not currently seen in most countries.
Sports, thanks to its massive audience size and cultural power, must play an important role as a climate action accelerant, starting now.
It says here that the easiest, quickest way to do so would be for sports leagues, teams and mega events like the Olympics — working with their media partners — to air climate action-related public service announcements (PSAs) in-stadium and on-air.
Show Support For Carbon Pricing
Carbon pricing, per En-ROADS, is the most impactful lever in the climate policy toolbox.
The Energy Innovation and Carbon Act of 2019 (H.R. 763) and the Market Choice Act of 2019 (H.R. 4520) are two carbon pricing bills with bipartisan support currently making their way through the U.S. House of Representatives. Legislatures in other countries are also working on similar proposals.
By showing support for carbon pricing legislation, the sports world would demonstrate to fans and other stakeholders that they are serious about making an impact on climate.
“Wait, wait, sports leagues and teams don’t get involved with politics,” one might say. “Especially on controversial issues.”
That’s not true.
In 2015, the New England Patriots, San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Rays all signed an amicus brief supporting the landmark and — at the time — controversial case that was in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
That same year, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman testified in front of a Congressional committee in favor of meaningful action on climate.
GSB believes that all of the major North American pro sports league commissioners should get behind carbon pricing legislation. This is not as heavy a lift as it might seem.
Supporting a carbon pricing bill en masse means that no one commissioner would have to go out on a political limb. And they would be demonstrating to the younger generation of fans — for whom the climate crisis is a clear, present and future danger — that they care for their futures, and not only as customers.
Lead on Electric Mobility
Scaling up on electric mobility starting now is another key policy lever that, per En-ROADS, will help get us towards our livable planet goals.
One thing the sports world can do in the near future, without breaking much of a sweat, is to shift to electric cars and buses — and let fans know they’re doing it. And, while they’re at it, teams and mega events, in concert with their airline sponsors, should make significant, high profile investments in low carbon aviation innovation.
Will the sports world follow the En-ROADS playbook to make some or all of the real inroads on climate suggested above, starting this year?
Watch this space.