Dec 3, 2019

Choose your own climate and energy adventure

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new simulator out today empowers readers to choose their own adventure when it comes to tackling climate change.

Why it matters: The tool, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and think tank Climate Interactive, underscores the grand challenge of employing technologies and policies to tackle climate change.

What’s new: This simulator is the first of its kind designed for politicians and others who care about climate change and energy, but aren’t researchers accustomed to arcane models.

  • From this simulator, which is still quite detailed, we curated an even more simplified interactive (see below) presenting nine questions on everything from carbon dioxide prices to land management.
  • At the end, it shows how your choices affect annual greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature rise and energy costs over the next 80 years.

The intrigue: Think of it as choose your own adventure, climate and energy style. It’s like the books you may have read as children — but less fun and more complicated.

Expand chart
Data: MIT and Climate Interactive; Interactive: Naema Ahmed and Sarah Grillo/Axios

How it works: Let’s choose one “adventure,” the most aggressive where you choose to subsidize all clean energy technologies, pursue the most climate-friendly policies and enact a global carbon price over $200 a ton.

  • The results are an aggressive and gradual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a temperature rise of 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • That would keep the rise to lower than 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius), which is a benchmark most scientists say Earth should stay below to limit the worst impacts of a warming world.

But, but, but: In this aggressive adventure, global energy costs rise sharply through the 2020s and then gradually decrease by 2100 to be lower than business as usual.

  • Energy costs include gasoline and electricity prices, but the modeling doesn’t offer more local costs for, say, the price of gasoline Americans would pay in 2029.
  • The metric used is gigajoule, an internationally recognized unit of energy (on a massive scale).
  • Many outcomes that drastically reduce emissions increase energy costs between 20-30% over the first decade, according to Andrew Jones, co-founder of Climate Interactive. In this most aggressive adventure, costs more than double initially.

The bottom line: The biggest upshot of the simulator shows that cutting emissions needs to be first about reducing the world’s use of fossil fuels, instead of merely ramping up cleaner forms of energy. Global energy demand keeps increasing, so wind and solar are being added on top of fossil fuels in most places around the world.

“It takes a long time for clean energy to displace the coal, oil and gas that is being planned. We need policies that more directly keep those fuels in the ground."
— Andrew Jones, co-founder, Climate Interactive

Go deeper: Why clean energy isn’t enough to tackle climate change

Editor's note: The interactive and content in this story was corrected to show the energy unit is a gigajoule (not an exajoule).

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Data: Ipsos/Axios survey; Note: ±3.2% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A new Axios-Ipsos poll finds that America has a massive racial gulf on each of our twin calamities — trust in police, and fear of the coronavirus.

  • 77% of whites say they trust local police, compared with just 36% of African Americans — one of many measures of a throbbing racial divide in Week 11 of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, taken the week George Floyd was killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis.
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Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued for a seventh day across the U.S., with President Trump threatening on Monday to deploy the military if the unrest continues.

The latest: Four police officers were struck by gunfire while standing near a line in St Louis on Monday after a peaceful demonstration, Police Chief John Hayden said early Tuesday. They were all taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He said a small group of people had thrown rocks and fireworks at police officers.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,273,402 — Total deaths: 375,683 — Total recoveries — 2,697,873Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,811,277 — Total deaths: 105,147 — Total recoveries: 458,231 — Total tested: 17,340,682Map.
  3. Public health: Nearly 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes have been reported to federal health officials —Coronavirus looms over George Floyd protests across the country.
  4. Federal government: Trump lashes out at governors, calls for National Guard to "dominate" streets.
  5. World: Former FDA commissioner says "this is not the time" to cut ties with WHO.
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