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Computer Models of Civilization Offer Routes to Ending Global Warming


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Electrical workers check solar panels at a photovoltaic power station in Haian, in China's eastern Jiangsu province.

World leaders agreed in Paris to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Meeting that goal will mean cutting net greenhouse gas emissions to zero within about 40 years.

Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Some climate scientists believe massive computer simulations of the world economy could be harnessed to establish a path forward to prevent the worst effects of global warming.

There are six major integrated assessment models—four in Europe, one in Japan, and one in the U.S.—and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency's Detlef van Vuuren said they are being used to investigate what is required to meet the Paris goals of slashing greenhouse gas emissions to zero within about 40 years.

Each model incorporates data about current greenhouse emission sources like cars, power plants, and home furnaces, as well as assumptions about international trade, prices, and the costs of new technologies.

The scientists then impose greenhouse emission limits, and the models formulate the most cost-efficient strategies for meeting those limits, provided they are technologically feasible and do not infringe on natural resources.

From NPR
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