Much of the globe can enjoy improved standards of living even while drastically cutting emissions and avoiding dangerous climate change, but it will require significant changes in its infrastructure, in agriculture and in the natural world, a new analysis suggests.
If global warming is to be limited to an increase of 2 degrees centigrade, forests in the natural world will have to be enlarged by 5 to 15 percent, the analysis from the United Kingdom government says.
And for crop yields to continue to feed the world they must increase by 40 to 60 percent.
However, billions of people will still remain in poverty by mid-century despite efforts to improve their condition, the analysis by the Global Calculator, an online software tool created by the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change, says.
Although attaining the nutritional need of 2,100 calories daily is possible for the entire planet, it is unlikely to be available to all the world's population without an improvement in global equity, department officials say.
The calculator works with data on the world's energy, food and land systems, reviewed by international experts, to examine various scenarios of possible emission reductions for meeting a 2C warming limit, which scientists consider vital to avoiding dangerous climate change.
"For the first time this Global Calculator shows that everyone in the world can prosper while limiting global temperature rises to 2C, preventing the most serious impacts of climate change," says U.K. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey.
"Yet the calculator is also very clear that we must act now to change how we use and generate energy and how we use our land if we are going to achieve this green growth," he says.
Living standards can be upheld but will require vast changes to agriculture, transport, fuel and food, the analysis suggests.
To cope with the food demands of an increasing world population, much more land will need to be brought under cultivation.
In addition, the number of electric cars on the road by 2050 would need to be in the hundreds of millions and the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of electricity produced would need to be reduced by at least 90 percent, it shows.
Anyone can use the online calculator, which has been lauded by environmentalists, to experiment with different possible scenarios for our planet's ecological future.
"The need for urgent action to avoid dangerous climate change is well accepted, but the steps we should take are often hotly contested," says Mike Childs with Friends of the Earth. "This excellent tool enables everyone to play the role of world leader and make decisions on the action we should take in key areas such as energy, manufacturing and farming."