Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Reining in Carbon Dioxide Levels Imperative but Possible

10.03.2006


Primary energy production and gross domestic product for selected countries. Both scales are logarithmic. Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency, 2002


Business-as-usual approach threatens world energy supplies and environment, but affordable, effective solutions appear within reach

Implementing a plan to keep rising carbon dioxide levels from reaching potentially dangerous levels could cost less than 1 percent of gross world product as of 2050, a cost that is well within reach of developed and developing nations alike. However, without simultaneous progress in the way energy is found, transformed, transported and used, the world is in danger of facing a severe energy crisis sometime within the next century.

Those are the conclusions of a report by Klaus S. Lackner and Jeffrey D. Sachs of The Earth Institute that appears in the most recent issue of Brookings Papers on Economic Activity published by the Brookings Institute.



"Today’s technology base is insufficient to provide clean and plentiful energy for 9 billion people," the authors write. "To satisfy tomorrow’s energy needs, it will not be enough simply to apply current best practices. Instead, new technologies, especially carbon capture and sequestration at large industrial plants, will need to be brought to maturity."

Primary energy use worldwide is currently about 14 trillion watts each year and rising. This equates to 2.2 kilowatts (kW) per person globally and results in the release of nearly 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Residents of the U.S., however, use 11 kW per person, 85 percent of which comes from burning fossil fuels, a process that contributes to the rising level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.

"Technology in general and energy at its base ultimately define the carrying capacity of the Earth for humans," says Lackner, director of the Center for Sustainable Energy at the Earth Institute. "If the rest of the world consumed carbon at the U.S. rate, carbon consumption and emissions worldwide would be six times what they are today. This would not only exhaust available oil supplies by the end of the century or sooner, but would also threaten widespread environmental damage."

That scenario is not so far-fetched, given the prospect for economic growth among the world’s developing countries, especially India and China. In 2002, the so-called Annex II countries identified by the Kyoto Accord as developing nations accounted for just 41 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. By 2025 the Annex II share is expected to rise to 60 percent and at the end of the century could total nearly 80 percent of global emissions.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere currently stands at roughly 380 parts per million (ppm), an increase of more than 35 percent over pre-industrial levels, largely due to the burning of fossil fuels. At the current rate of increase, the world could reach 550 ppm well before the end of the century, with potentially disastrous implications for human well-being and the Earth’s natural systems.

Lackner and Sachs, however, see vast room for progress in meeting the world’s growing energy needs without threatening to destabilize the Earth’s climate. In particular, they identify carbon capture and sequestration as an important part of any future plan to address the problem. Given the best available projections for energy use, economic growth and atmospheric dynamics, they find that a carbon capture and sequestration system could help keep carbon dioxide levels from reaching 500 ppm by 2050 at a cost of between 0.1 and 0.3 percent of gross world product.

Other large-scale solutions they identify include solar energy, clean coal technology and nuclear power, though they identify problems with each that must be resolved.The authors also see widespread use of hybrid engines as another readily deployable technology to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. All together, a program to keep the Earth’s carbon dioxide levels in check could cost less than 1 percent of projected gross world product as of 2050.

"Whatever we do, we know we are going to have to approach this complex problem in a multi-faceted way and from a global perspective," said Sachs, director of The Earth Institute. "The key is we have to start now and we have to commit ourselves to making a change before change is forced on us. Fortunately, there are promising technologies that may well offer us solutions at large scale and reasonably low cost."

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world’s leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.

Ken Kostel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.earth.columbia.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht More than 100 years of flooding and erosion in 1 event
28.03.2017 | Geological Society of America

nachricht Satellites reveal bird habitat loss in California
28.03.2017 | Duke University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>