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 New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>