June 1, 2023 by Climate Interactive
The June 2023 update to the En-ROADS Climate Solutions Simulator incorporates major improvements and additions, including a new Baseline Scenario that accounts for the economic impact of climate change; many new sliders and graphs; and model improvements to the land, forests, food, and electrification sectors. Read further or check out the video below for more:
The En-ROADS Baseline Scenario now results in a temperature increase by 2100 of 3.3°C rather than 3.6°C. The Baseline Scenario represents the state of the world if societal and technological changes were to continue at their current rate of progress, without additional policies or action. Most of the change in the Baseline temperature is due to the addition of the economic impact of climate change. However, other modeling changes led to updates across other variables, for example, there are more renewables and electrification, and less coal and oil.
Impacts of climate change—such as sea level rise, droughts, flooding, migration, and others—slow global economic growth and result in less energy demand, leading to fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The estimated effect of temperature change on global economic growth is known as the economic “damage function” and was previously optional in En-ROADS but is now default in the June 2023 version. Due to the damage function, the Baseline Scenario now has a lower temperature in 2100. The impact of temperature on economic growth slightly diminishes the effectiveness of climate policies through a compensating feedback mechanism.
The largest structural addition to En-ROADS is the detailed modeling of land types such as forests and farmland, tracking the conversion between types, and the integration with the energy sector and the carbon cycle. The main implication of these improvements is that protecting forests from deforestation and degradation avoids increases in emissions and preserves forests’ carbon removal capacity. These changes also introduce new policy options for food and agriculture and a more accurate assessment of bioenergy.
En-ROADS now includes the dynamics of forest aging, degradation, and loss, along with policies and actions that cause forest land changes. As a result, the main Deforestation slider now simulates both deforestation (the permanent clearing of forest land for farmland or other use) and mature forest degradation (harvesting an older forest and replacing it with a new forest).
Both deforestation and mature forest degradation release carbon emissions from biomass and soil disturbance into the atmosphere. On the other hand, actions that preserve forests, such as reducing the use of wood for bioenergy or enforcing forest protection policies, prevent the release of stored carbon and enhance the land’s carbon sequestration capacity. Users can explore these insights using new graphs such as “CO2 Removals from Land” and “Carbon in Forests.”
The new “Food from animals” and “Food waste” sliders in the advanced view for Deforestation enable users to test the impact of more plant-based diets and less food waste. These actions directly affect the deforestation rate and greenhouse gas emissions (in particular, CO2 emissions and removals from forests, and N2O and CH4 emissions from agriculture). The “Adoption of agricultural best practices” slider in the Methane & Other Gases advanced view provides another option to further reduce emissions of N2O and CH4.
The June 2023 model improvements to the land-use sector account for the full effect of bioenergy on the climate by incorporating emissions and removals from land into the carbon cycle. Furthermore, En-ROADS now captures the effect wood bioenergy has on both mature forest degradation and the carbon removal capacity of forests.
As a result, three feedstocks (wood, crops, and waste/other) can be separately subsidized or taxed in the Bioenergy advanced view. A set of new graphs, such as “CO2 Net Emissions from Forest Bioenergy” and “CO2 Removals from Land,” can be used to explore their impact.
The electrification sectors for transportation, buildings, and industry were improved by tying the adoption of electric vehicles and electric equipment in buildings and industry to market, financial, and policy drivers, as opposed to mandating electrification success, as in previous versions of En-ROADS. The main sliders for electrification now add a subsidy to the purchase cost of either electric vehicles (for the Transport Electrification slider) or electric equipment (for the Buildings and Industry Electrification slider). Additionally, increasing the main Transport Electrification slider also scales up charging infrastructure to support electrification.
In the advanced view for the Electrification sliders, there are additional controls to build charging infrastructure and restrict fuel-based alternatives. Users can compare the results in new graphs such as the “Electric Share of Transport Sales” and “Cost Ratio of Electric to Fuel-Powered Equipment.”
The En-ROADS Baseline Scenario now includes a default carbon price set at $5/ton CO2. The value reflects the current global average, based on the 26% of the world’s carbon emissions covered by a carbon tax or emissions trading system as of 20211.
By default in En-ROADS, a carbon price does not price the emissions from bioenergy, reflecting the current reality of carbon pricing around the world. Given that bioenergy does release CO2, users can decide to change this setting by using the new “Carbon price applies to bioenergy emissions” switch in the advanced view of the Carbon Price slider.
The Carbon Price slider encourages the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, since most carbon price policies only tax the energy sources when they emit CO2. Because the deployment of CCS technologies at large scales is not guaranteed, users can prevent a carbon price from encouraging CCS by turning off the new “Carbon price encourages carbon capture and storage (CCS)” switch located in the advanced view.
Previous versions of En-ROADS allowed users to subsidize CCS technology. Direct subsidies of CCS in En-ROADS have been removed, and improvements to CCS modeling are planned for future releases.
Aside from the many changes and improvements mentioned above, the June 2023 release of En-ROADS includes a range of smaller improvements. Some of the notable ones include:
Dolphin, G. (2022). World Carbon Pricing Database. Resources for the Future. ↩