I want to start talking about plans for cutting back carbon emissions, and some scenarios for what may happen, depending on what we do. We’ve got to figure this stuff out!
You’ve probably heard of 350.org, the grassroots organization that’s trying to cut CO2 levels from their current level of about 390 parts per million back down to 350. That’s a noble goal. However, even stabilizing at some much higher level will require a massive effort, given how long CO2 stays in the atmosphere:
In a famous 2004 paper, Pacala and Socolow estimated that in a “business-as-usual” scenario, carbon emissions would rise to 14 gigatons per year by 2054… while to keep CO2 below 500 ppm, they’d need to be held to 7 gigatons/year.
Alas, we’ve already gone up to 8 gigatons of carbon per year! How can we possibly keep things from getting much worse? Pacala and Socolow listed 15 measures, each of which could cut 1 gigaton of carbon per year:
(Click for a bigger image.)
Each one of these measures is big. For example, if you like nuclear power: build 700 gigawatts of nuclear power plants, doubling what we have now. But if you prefer wind: build turbines with 2000 gigawatts of peak capacity, multiplying by 50 what we have now. Or: build photovoltaic solar power plants with 2000 gigawatts of peak capacity, multiplying by 700 what we have now!
Now imagine doing lots of these things…
What if we do nothing? Some MIT scientists estimate that in a business-as-usual scenario, by 2095 there will be about 890 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, and a 90% chance of a temperature increase between 3.5 and 7.3 degrees Celsius. Pick your scenario! The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change has a chart of the choices:
(Again, click for a bigger image.)
Of course the Stern Review has its detractors. I’m not claiming any of these issues are settled: I’m just trying to get the discussion started here. In the weeks to come, I want to go through plans and assessments in more detail, to compare them and try to find the truth.
Here are some assessments and projections I want us to discuss:
• International Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2007.
• The Dutch Government, Assessing an IPCC Assessment.
• The Copenhagen Diagnosis. Summary on the Azimuth Project.
• National Research Council, Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia. Summary on the Azimuth Project
• K. Anderson and A. Bows, Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends. Summary on the Azimuth Project.
• William D. Norhaus, A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies.
And here are some “plans of action”:
• World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Century Outlook. Summary and critique on the Azimuth Project.
• Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, A path to sustainable energy: how to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030. Summary and critique on the Azimuth Project.
• Joe Romm, How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution. Summary on the Azimuth Project.
• Robert Pacala and Stephen Socolow, Stabilization wedges: solving the climate problem for the next 50 years with current technologies. Summary on the Azimuth Project
• New Economics Foundation, The Great Transition: A Tale of How it Turned Out Right. Summary on the Azimuth Project.
• The Union of Concerned Scientists, Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy.
• The Scottish Government, Renewables Action Plan.
• Bjorn Lømborg and the Copenhagen Business School, Smart Solutions to Climate Change.
As you can see, there’s already a bit about some of these on the Azimuth Project. I want more.
What are the most important things I’m missing on this list? I want broad assessments and projections of the world-wide situation on carbon emissions and energy, and even better, global plans of action. I want us to go through these, compare them, and try to understand where we stand.