Posts Tagged ‘Climate Stabilization Wedges’

There seem to be three sides to the climate debate. We either deny that there’s a problem; or we believe that we’ve gone too far and there’s no turning back and the future world will be unrecognizable and perhaps unlivable; or we understand our role in the situation and feel that we have the available tools to fix it.

Personally, I know too much to deny what I see going on all around me. And I have friends in the business who would say if I knew what they know I wouldn’t have any hope in the future. I see no option other than to believe we can solve this problem.  Herein lies the possibility of a fourth element of the climate question: we understand the severity of the problem and the tools currently available, but we realize that we don’t now know all we’ll need to know to overcome the obstacles facing us.

In 2004, two Princeton University professors published a paper in Science Magazine in which they coined the term, Climate Stabilization Wedges.  Robert Socolow, an engineer, and Stephen Pacala, an ecologist, base their idea on the graph which projects that the growth of our current carbon emissions—7  billion tons/year or 380 parts per million (p.p.m.)  greenhouse gases (g.h.g.—will double by the year 2050. Business as usual means upwards of fifteen billion tons of carbon and 800 p.p.m. and a drowning, chaotic, and most likely an uninhabitable world.  Ideally we are able to maintain 350 p.p.m. and people who know believe that anything over 450 p.p.m. means massive climate destabilization and rising seas.

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Socolow and Pacala have used wedges to flatten this steep graph. Each wedge represents an existing technology that will eliminate from the atmosphere 1 billion tons of carbon each year.  They’ve included a solar, a wind, and a nuclear power wedge. Sequestering carbon from coal fired power plants is another wedge. They’ve defined fifteen possible wedges.  Flattening the graph in the next half century—eliminating 7 billion tons of carbon—will require 7 wedges. (more…)


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