How can hyper-local solutions help reduce carbon emissions?

By Honghao Deng

There is a long-held belief that lowering our individual annual carbon budget to 2.0 tonnes will make a significant impact on climate change. While this was once a possibility, the reality is that the goal is no longer achievable, MIT research suggests.

But we can stick to 2.5 tonnes of carbon use each year for every person on the planet, and if we do so, we have an 80% chance of keeping below 2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2050.

Finding a blueprint for reducing carbon budget

While extreme weather events and consequences of climate change make the problem seem too large and unresolvable, a March 2023 report by the International Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, says it is still possible to keep our increasing warmer climate at relatively safe levels.

Reducing the carbon budget to 2.5 tonnes will make it safer but requires aggressive actions. This is especially true in the United States, where the average individual produces 16 tonnes of carbon per year, according to the Nature Conservancy – one of the highest rates in the world. The average individual carbon budget globally sits closer to 4 tonnes.

However, the City Science research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), led by Professor Kent Larson, recently conducted a study to lower individual carbon budgets to 2.5 tonnes. Larson is working on a book based on extensive research using algorithmic, dynamic, incentive-based zoning for pro-social development. As a former MIT student, I had the privilege of getting an up-close view into the activities of City Science as part of their recent study on lowering individual carbon footprints.

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