The ability to enjoy a high standard of living without a drastic increase in global energy consumption should be attainable for everyone, reports a paper published online this week in Nature Energy. Extrapolating from current technological trends, the study is one of the first integrated analyses of economic, environmental and energy systems that shows how sustainable development goals can be met without overtaxing planetary boundaries.
Rising energy consumption has long been linked to improved living standards. However, current technological and social trends suggest that it should be possible to decouple development from energy demand - such as cell phones that work as cameras, telephones, and televisions, and the growing appreciation of walkable neighborhoods.
Arnulf Grubler and colleagues incorporate these trends into a model of global economy, environment and energy systems to show that many sustainable development goals - to provide decent standards of living worldwide, even to the growing populations in underdeveloped regions - can be met by 2050 without raising energy consumption or crossing dangerous climate boundaries.
The authors’ rigorous scenario shows one achievable vision of a so-called good Anthropocene - where our desire for a good life need not conflict with the goal of preserving the environment.