Skip to comments.Technology already exists to stabilize climate, say experts
Posted on 09/01/2004 11:22:16 AM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
PRINCETON, New Jersey Existing technologies could stop the escalation of global warming for 50 years, and work on implementing them can begin immediately, according to an analysis by Princeton University scientists.
The scientists identified 15 technologies from wind, solar, and nuclear energy to conservation techniques that are ripe for large-scale use and showed that each could solve a significant portion of the problem. Their analysis, published recently in Science, indicates that many combinations of these 15 technologies could prevent global emissions of greenhouse gases from rising for the next five decades.
The finding counters the common argument that a major new technology needs to be developed before greenhouse gases can be controlled, said professors Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, who conducted the study.
"It certainly explodes the idea that we need to do research for a long time before getting started," said Pacala, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and co-director with Socolow of Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Initiative.
"If we decide to act, we will need to reduce carbon emissions across the whole global economy," said Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. "Fortunately, we have the tools to do this, especially if we think in terms of 50-year campaigns, not instant solutions."
Although the current study did not examine the costs of scaling up each of the 15 possible technologies, the authors point out that implementing the measures would likely generate economic benefits, including creating new industries, reducing the U.S. dependence on foreign oil and lessening the need for other pollution-control expenses associated with burning coal and other fossil fuels.
Carbon the Culprit
The study focuses on the main contributor to greenhouse warming, carbon dioxide, which comes from burning carbon-based fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal. Throughout Earth's history, changes in carbon dioxide levels have been linked to changes in climate.
Current global emissions of carbon dioxide contain 7 billion tons of carbon per year. That amount is projected to double to 14 billion tons per year over the next 50 years, as the world population increases and people consume more energy. To keep emissions stable, technologies and conservation efforts would have to prevent 7 billion tons worth of emissions per year by 2054.
Pacala and Socolow show how each of the 15 options they identified could prevent 1 billion tons a year worth of carbon emissions by 2054. To illustrate their idea, the researchers created a graph that divides the problem into seven 1 billion-ton-per-year "wedges." In their paper and 51 pages of supplementary online material, they identify opportunities and difficulties associated with each option and compare alternative combinations of seven wedges.
Several of the options, for example, involve capturing carbon dioxide at power plants or other locations and storing it deep underground (carbon dioxide gas already is commonly injected into the Earth as part of some oil drilling operations). Others involve improving energy conservation faster than the modest improvements that are continually occurring. The researchers identify various renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, that could be scaled up faster than current projections. Changes in forestry and farming techniques also could lead to substantial reductions in carbon emissions.
Pacala and Socolow caution that scientists must continue researching alternative sources of energy because new measures will be required after 50 years. By that time, some of the 15 technologies will have reached their full potential and may not be able to keep up with increasing demand.
Case for Action
Pacala and Socolow said that limiting carbon emissions to present-day levels for 50 years would put the world on a track to stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at about 500 parts per million. That would be roughly a doubling of the carbon dioxide content compared to the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million. If emissions are left unchecked, it would be difficult to stabilize below a tripling. The current concentration is about 375 parts per million.
The authors acknowledged that their analysis does not address the question of why it is necessary to act in the first place.
"Ideally, scientists and economists would produce a rigorous analysis showing that the benefits of controlling greenhouse gases outweigh the risks of not doing so," said Pacala. "But the rigorous analysis is not going to be possible until the warming is upon us or not, as the case may be," Pacala continued. "The alternative to acting now is to watch the experiment happen and then find out how accurate we were."
A strong case for action comes from three lines of evidence, said Pacala. First, investigations of the Earth's climate over the last million years show that various factors, such as changing carbon dioxide levels, tend to reinforce each other and cause the temperature "to switch all at once" as it has during previous ice ages, Pacala said. "We understand those feedback mechanisms somewhat, but not completely, and that is scary."
A second reason for concern comes from current observations of change, including warming temperatures and the melting of ancient ice in glaciers, said Pacala.
Lastly, the computer models that explain past climate behavior and predict future changes indicate that increasing the level of carbon dioxide will cause long-term warming.
"The models are not perfect, but they are based on sound principles," Pacala said. "You put it all together and you say, 'This looks dangerous.' And then when you find that we already have the technology to deal with it, we say, 'Why not?'" Pacala said.
"We'll have to spend real money," Socolow said, "but addressing the global carbon problem now will provide a tremendous stimulus to the economy and will promote the development of needed international institutions, while averting the most serious environmental consequences."
Pacala and Socolow's research is part of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, a project in the Princeton Environmental Institute funded by $20 million in grants from BP and Ford Motor Co. The researchers are continuing their work with more detailed analysis of the challenges and opportunities associated with the technologies they identified and with further studies of the magnitude and urgency of the carbon and climate problem.
No doubt the debate about human influence will rage on. The article also does not even take a stab to estimate the costs of implementation - but mentions this as well.
At the end of the day, human progress has been most extraordinary when we have been faced with climate changes. Whether manmade or natural, perhaps it is a blessing in disguise and what will emerge will be something superior to what we now have.
Which IMHO basically means a planet of nations that looks like France and thinks like Texas. Of course Utopia really is a place that does not exist.
Is that about it?
Funny, the greatest single correlating factor with global warming is the Sun. Yet it was not even mentioned in this article.
Do we have a technology to control the output of the sun? Nope.
Assuming CO2 emmission is a huge problem, Nuclear power becomes a logical solution. But Greenies would never advocate nuclear power.
It is a fact that space-borne observations of Earth's surface temperatures show no warming trend (nor cooling trend).
It is possible that, since the temperaturs measurements are chiefly based on Weather Service measurements, and those are made at airports, and airports are increasingly surrounded by cities' growth, and cities include pavement and air conditioners, then the observed temperature rise is a result of coagulation of people, not atmospheric at all.
It's also possible that the fact that the sun's output energy is not constant (I think it's up by 30% over 150 years) might have something to do with it.
Idiocy. Complete idiocy.
Yeah, it likes coming up with a plan to dig holes then fill them back in to provide a tremendous stimulus to the economy.
Um, maybe my science is off, but I can't recall the part where I learned (or didn't learn) that energy could be consumed...
There is a new line of thought in Climate Change theory which recognozes that the historical average temerpature of the Earth is Kelvin 284. Which is about 54 degrees fahrenheit.
The people purporting this theory say that as long as the average temperature stays at or around this level, life (for that matter intelligent life) remains possible.
One of the things that has them worried are solar panels. They contest that if you imagine billions of square meters of black solar panles are placed on the Earth by humans, the amount of heat they would absorb ( in comparisom to a more reflective color) would certainly negate any benefit from reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
The is the same concern that is expressed about the melting of the ice in Greenland and Antarctica. It isnt the excess water, but the "runawawy" greenhouse effect caused by the change in color.
Fascinating (to me at least).
I would be curious to learn more about that.
I know in Germany the "Green Roofs" program is being used to combat the Heat Island Effect.
It also saves money on heating and cooling. Dirt and grass are great as insulation.
I will have to take a look at Frankfurt's readings.
I am a big fan of this program because it makes cities more livable. It is money well spent and combats the significant issues related to deforestation and the transfer of moisture inland.
This, or a shortened version of it, would be a great tag line.
Could you provide a translation of your account name? I assume it is German. I was stationed in Germany back '83-'87 but did not learn enough German.
We don't even know what we don't know. We see carbon dioxide levels increasing, we don't know what it means. We see reputable science predicting warming and cooling and staying the same. We see timetables of 50 to 100 years. We have people like Bjorn Lomborg showing that the activists are exagerating everything. I'm for sitting tight for a few tens of years and seeing where this goes.
Now by sitting tight, I don't mean not keeping the car engine in good shape, and improving emmission control on factories where smog levels are already high. I would like to see our energy needs point in the direction of renewable and non poluting systems such as nuclear power. I don't mind other alternatives coming in when they can get the requisite financing, but it should be the market that drives these new technologies. So far when the government gets involved, it ends up making some businessmen rich, so the government is mostly about making money for supporters of various schemes. This sounds like another candidate. When the technology and business plan show true promise, businesses fund their own production and make the money themselves. Thats the way I would like to see it.
We don't care. We want windmills and electric cars, we want them now, and we want them for free.
Did I miss something? Which of these technologies dims the sun?
"Could you provide a translation of your account name?"
Gladly. With a short German lesson to boot.
My screen name is also the first three words of the German national Anthem. It is, in fact, the second verse of Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles.
Einigkeit = Unity (Ein = one; Keit is an suffix like "ing")
Recht = Rights or Justice dependent upon context.
Freiheit = Freedom and/or Liberty. The Statue of Liberty in German is calle the Freiheits Statue (but one lone Germanic word).
I had one full year as a student to learn the language. Otherwise it would have been a struggle that I am not sure I would have won.
Idiocy. Complete idiocy.
Agreed! With logic like this, why are we listening to anything this person has to say?
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