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Published on January 12th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Full Global Warming Solution: How to Stabilize World Climate

January 12th, 2011 by

Yes, first of all, by stabilize we don’t mean keep it exactly the same — that is impossible. We mean not pumping it so full of CO2 that we see unprecedented warming and ‘natural’ disasters and perhaps even an unlivable climate at some point.

Anyway, this post is a share of an in-depth post by Dr Joe Romm of Climate Progress. As he very succinctly summarizes at the beginning, “In this post I will lay out ‘the solution’ to global warming.

Here’s the intro if you want to get a sense of the piece before clicking over:

This post is an update of a 2008 analysis I revised in 2009.  A report by the International Energy Agency came to almost exactly the same conclusion as I did, and has relatively similar wedges, so I view that as a vindication of this overall analysis.

Stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide at 450 ppm or lower is not politically possible today — not even close — but is certainly achievable from an economic and technological perspective, as I and others have said for years.

Humanity has only two paths forward at this point.  Either we voluntarily switch to a low-carbon, low-oil, low-net water use, low-net-material use economy over the next two decades or the post-Ponzi-scheme-collapse forces us to do so circa 2030. The only difference between the two paths is that the first one spares our children and grandchildren and countless future generations untold misery (see “Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water” and “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice“).

It would require some 12-14 of Princeton’s “stabilization wedges” — strategies and/or technologies that over a period of a few decades each ultimately reduce projected global carbon emissions by one billion metric tons per year (see Princeton website here).  These 12-14 wedges are my focus here.

The reason that we need twice as many wedges as Princeton’s Pacala and Socolow have said we need was explained here. That my analysis is largely correct can be seen here: “IEA report, Part 2: Climate Progress has the 450-ppm solution about right.”

OK, I almost decided not to include the solutions, because I think there is a lot more in the discussion that you should read over on Climate Progress, but with the title as it is (and for those who don’t want to read about this in-depth), I think I should stick solutions in here. Here they are (of course, I would be inclined to focus more on mass transit than on cars, but this is not my list and I am not prepared to make one of such detail):

This is what the entire planet must achieve:

Here are additional wedges that require some major advances in applied research to be practical and scalable, but are considered plausible by serious analysts, especially post-2030:

  • 1 of geothermal plus ocean-based renewables (i.e. tidal, wave, and/or ocean thermal)
  • 1 of coal with biomass cofiring plus carbon capture and storage — 400 GW of coal plus 200 GW biomass with CCS
  • 1/2 to 1 wedge of cellulosic biofuels for long-distance transport and what little aviation remains in 2050 — using 8% of the world’s cropland [or less land if yields significantly increase or algae-to-biofuels proves commercial at large scale].
  • 1 of soils and/or biochar– Apply improved agricultural practices to all existing croplands and/or “charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass.” Both are controversial today, but may prove scalable strategies.

That should do the trick. And yes, the scale is staggering.

Photo Credits: thinkpanama; rpeschetz

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

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