A team of researchers argues that with which we spend on the planet, even in developing areas, basic needs and something else should be guaranteed.
A study by a group of researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria) argues that we are already generating more than enough energy for all human beings on the planet to have a decent life.
The climate crisis is intrinsically a debate about the amount of power generation we need to live. People who live in developed countries use more energy than is really necessary to live a decent life, but in developing countries, it is not so clear if there is room for manoeuvre to reduce energy consumption.
According to calculations by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, very little energy is needed to provide the basic fundamentals of health, nutrition and education, which means there is no need for anyone to live in poverty while we strive to balance our global level of carbon emissions.
“People have long been concerned that economic development and climate mitigation were not compatible, that the growth necessary to remove billions of people from poverty would make it impossible to reduce net emissions to zero, which is a requirement for climate stabilization”, energy systems analyst Narasimha Rao, one of the study’s authors, tells Science Alert.
Taking a series of conditions that would allow a decent standard of living, Rao and his team focused on three developing economies, Brazil, South Africa and India, chosen to represent a variety of climates and cultures, each with its own challenges in health, air conditioning and access to transport.
The researchers assessed what might be needed, given their individual energy resources, so that each nation continued to develop and discovered that the three economies are already generating more than enough energy to ensure that each citizen can have a decent standard of living.
The research, published in the scientific journal ‘Nature Energy‘, states that in India, for example, the amount of energy consumed in 2015 was around 17.5 gigajoules per capita, when only 7 gigajoules per person were needed to satisfy the basic needs, with about 12 to 15 gigajoules so that everyone met a decent standard of living.
“We did not expect the energy needs of a minimally decent life to be so modest, even for countries like India, where there are big differences,” Rao says. “It was also a pleasant surprise that the most essential human needs related to health, nutrition and education are so cheap in terms of energy“.
According to the researchers, this is an important analysis, because the question of how developing nations should manage their energy production is complicated. There is no single solution for each economy, but it is clear that most nations can make small changes to reduce carbon emissions and meet all the basic needs of their population.
They also clarify that this report is not about individual wealth. “Our study suggests that we have to measure social progress in terms of these multiple dimensions, not just income, and we must also pay attention to the distribution of growth in developing countries“, Rao concludes.