Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Carbon Mitigation Initiative

In previous posts I have referred to the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, pioneered by Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, both of Princeton. As part of their work they have designed a "Stabilization triangle" that illustrates our current emissions trajectory if nothing is done, an increase that will lead to the tripling of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, and a flat trajectory that will prevent the doubling of concentrations.

In their words:
"In order to avoid a doubling of CO2 and dramatic climate change, society needs to act quickly to deploy low-carbon energy technologies and enhance natural carbon sinks.
The "stabilization wedges" concept illustrates the scale of emissions cuts needed in the future, and provides a common unit for comparing the carbon mitigating capacities of various energy and storage technologies."

Implementing these reductions would prevent 200 billion tons of CO2 emissions between now and 2054. Each of the seven wedges represents reduction in the rate of emissions of 1 billion tons per year by 2054, or 25 billion over the whole period. Their wedges fall into five basic categories: energy conservation, renewable energy, enhanced natural sinks, nuclear energy, and fossil carbon management. All of these reductions can be made using existing and readily available technology, which does not mean that the political and social will is there. In my upcoming posts, I would like to look at some of their numbers, which help illustrate the scope of the challenge and provide a sobering reminder that every nation and sector of society must be involved, and that the average individual only has control over a small part of this effort.


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