ENVSTY 101 Northeastern University Wedge Stabilization and Climate Change Memorandum This memo asks you to take three steps: read critically; research effe

ENVSTY 101 Northeastern University Wedge Stabilization and Climate Change Memorandum This memo asks you to take three steps: read critically; research effectively; and, write efficiently. Please
review the Wedge Stabilization Strategy article (Pacala & Socolow) and compose a 650-750
word memo that outlines:
? the nature of the environmental problem of climate change and the human role in the development
of that problem; and,
? the prospects for solving the problem (or at least mitigating it) over the course of the next thirty years
using illustrative examples.
While it will be appropriate to refer to suggestions outlined in the book and the article, you must support your
assessment by pointing to at least four examples of how some of those suggested solutions are actually
being implemented. The memo should be analytical and reflect your research rather than express opinions.
Here is a suggested outline to help you stay on track:
1. Introduction – please address the nature of the environmental problem of climate change and the
human role in the development of the problem. Introduce the problem to set the stage for the main points
you will make throughout your paper. (2 points)
2. Body – Assessment of the problem and prospective solutions. Discuss how suggested solutions are being
implemented to some degree. Provide four illustrative examples (be specific). (4 points)
a. Example 1 – mitigation
b. Example 2 – mitigation
c. Example 3 – adaptation
d. Example 4 – adaptation
3. Conclusion – briefly summarize the main points described throughout your paper. Conclude with a final
statement regarding the examples you have outlined. (2 points)
4. Works Cited/References – list and cite all sources used throughout your memo using MLA or APA format.
Do not cite any sources not used in your memo. (1 point)
5. Proper grammar/spelling/usage/format (1 point)
Information supporting your suggestions must be appropriately quoted/attributed/cited. You should NOT
employ quotations of more than a few words since they reflect someone else’s thinking/analysis/opinion,
rather you ought to effectively summarize and paraphrase references and attribute/cite them in
accordance with appropriate academic standards noted in the syllabus and excerpted here with some helpful
Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem
for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies
S. Pacala1* and R. Socolow2*
Humanity already possesses the fundamental scienti?c, technical, and industrial
know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century. A
portfolio of technologies now exists to meet the world’s energy needs over the next
50 years and limit atmospheric CO2 to a trajectory that avoids a doubling of the
preindustrial concentration. Every element in this portfolio has passed beyond the
laboratory bench and demonstration project; many are already implemented somewhere at full industrial scale. Although no element is a credible candidate for doing
the entire job (or even half the job) by itself, the portfolio as a whole is large enough
that not every element has to be used.
(BAU) trajectory], the quantitative details of the
stabilization target, and the future behavior of
natural sinks for atmospheric CO2 (i.e., the
oceans and terrestrial biosphere). We focus exclusively on CO2, because it is the dominant
anthropogenic greenhouse gas; industrial-scale
mitigation options also exist for subordinate
gases, such as methane and N2O.
Very roughly, stabilization at 500 ppm
requires that emissions be held near the
present level of 7 billion tons of carbon per
year (GtC/year) for the next 50 years, even
though they are currently on course to more
than double (Fig. 1A). The next 50 years is
a sensible horizon from several perspectives. It is the length of a career, the lifetime of a power plant, and an interval for
which the technology is close enough to
envision. The calculations behind Fig. 1A
are explained in Section 1 of the supporting
online material (SOM) text. The BAU and
stabilization emissions in Fig. 1A are near
the center of the cloud of variation in the
large published literature (8).
What Do We Mean by “Solving the
Carbon and Climate Problem for the
Next Half-Century”?
The Stabilization Triangle
Proposals to limit atmospheric CO2 to a concentration that would prevent most damaging
climate change have focused on a goal of
500 ? 50 parts per million (ppm), or less than
double the preindustrial concentration of 280
ppm (3–7). The current concentration is ?375
ppm. The CO2 emissions reductions necessary
to achieve any such target depend on the emissions judged likely to occur in the absence of a
focus on carbon [called a business-as-usual
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: pacala@princeton.edu (S.P.); socolow@princeton.
edu (R.S.)
We idealize the 50-year emissions reductions
as a perfect triangle in Fig. 1B. Stabilization
is represented by a “flat” trajectory of fossil
fuel emissions at 7 GtC/year, and BAU is
represented by a straight-line “ramp” trajectory rising to 14 GtC/year in 2054. The “stabilization triangle,” located between the flat
trajectory and BAU, removes exactly onethird of BAU emissions.
To keep the focus on technologies that have
the potential to produce a material difference by
2054, we divide the stabilization triangle into
seven equal “wedges.” A wedge represents an
activity that reduces emissions to the atmosphere
that starts at zero today and increases linearly
until it accounts for 1 GtC/year of reduced carbon emissions in 50 years. It thus represents a
cumulative total of 25 GtC of reduced emissions
over 50 years. In this paper, to “solve the carbon
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The debate in the current literature about stabilizing atmospheric CO2 at less than a doubling
of the preindustrial concentration has led to
needless confusion about current options for
mitigation. On one side, the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has claimed
that “technologies that exist in operation or pilot
stage today” are sufficient to follow a less-thandoubling trajectory “over the next hundred
years or more” [(1), p. 8]. On the other side, a
recent review in Science asserts that the IPCC
claim demonstrates “misperceptions of technological readiness” and calls for “revolutionary
changes” in mitigation technology, such as fusion, space-based solar electricity, and artificial
photosynthesis (2). We agree that fundamental
research is vital to develop the revolutionary
mitigation strategies needed in the second half
of this century and beyond. But it is important
not to become beguiled by the possibility of
revolutionary technology. Humanity can solve
the carbon and climate problem in the first half
of this century simply by scaling up what we
already know how to do.
and climate problem over the next half-century”
means to deploy the technologies and/or lifestyle
changes necessary to fill all seven wedges of the
stabilization triangle.
Stabilization at any level requires that net
emissions do not simply remain constant, but
eventually drop to zero. For example, in one
simple model (9) that begins with the stabilization triangle but looks beyond 2054, 500ppm stabilization is achieved by 50 years of
flat emissions, followed by a linear decline of
about two-thirds in the following 50 years,
and a very slow decline thereafter that matches the declining ocean sink. To develop the
revolutionary technologies required for such
large emissions reductions in the second half
of the century, enhanced research and development would have to begin immediately.
Policies designed to stabilize at 500 ppm
would inevitably be renegotiated periodically
to take into account the results of research
and development, experience with specific
wedges, and revised estimates of the size of
the stabilization triangle. But not filling the
stabilization triangle will put 500-ppm stabilization out of reach. In that same simple
model (9), 50 years of BAU emissions followed by 50 years of a flat trajectory at 14
GtC/year leads to more than a tripling of the
preindustrial concentration.
It is important to understand that each of
the seven wedges represents an effort beyond
what would occur under BAU. Our BAU
simply continues the 1.5% annual carbon
emissions growth of the past 30 years. This
historic trend in emissions has been accompanied by 2% growth in primary energy consumption and 3% growth in gross world
product (GWP) (Section 1 of SOM text). If
carbon emissions were to grow 2% per year,
then ?10 wedges would be needed instead of
7, and if carbon emissions were to grow at
3% per year, then ?18 wedges would be
required (Section 1 of SOM text). Thus, a
continuation of the historical rate of decarbonization of the fuel mix prevents the need
for three additional wedges, and ongoing improvements in energy efficiency prevent the
need for eight additional wedges. Most readers will reject at least one of the wedges listed
here, believing that the corresponding deployment is certain to occur in BAU, but
readers will disagree about which to reject on
such grounds. On the other hand, our list of
mitigation options is not exhaustive.
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Wedges can be achieved from energy efficiency, from the decarbonization of the supply of electricity and fuels (by means of fuel
shifting, carbon capture and storage, nuclear
energy, and renewable energy), and from biological storage in forests and agricultural
soils. Below, we discuss 15 different examples of options that are already deployed at an
industrial scale and that could be scaled up
further to produce at least one wedge (summarized in Table 1). Although several options could be scaled up to two or more
wedges, we doubt that any could fill the
stabilization triangle, or even half of it, alone.
Because the same BAU carbon emissions
cannot be displaced twice, achieving one
wedge often interacts with achieving another.
The more the electricity system becomes decarbonized, for example, the less the available savings from greater efficiency of electricity use, and
vice versa. Interactions among wedges are discussed in the SOM text. Also, our focus is not on
costs. In general, the achievement of a wedge will
require some price trajectory for carbon, the details of which depend on many assumptions, including future fuels prices, public acceptance, and
cost reductions by means of learning. Instead, our
analysis is intended to complement the comprehensive but complex “integrated assessments” (1)
of carbon mitigation by letting the full-scale examples that are already in the marketplace make a
simple case for technological readiness.
Category I: Efficiency and Conservation
Improvements in efficiency and conservation
probably offer the greatest potential to provide wedges. For example, in 2002, the United States announced the goal of decreasing its
carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit
GDP) by 18% over the next decade, a decrease of 1.96% per year. An entire wedge
would be created if the United States were to
reset its carbon intensity goal to a decrease of
2.11% per year and extend it to 50 years, and if
every country were to follow suit by adding the
same 0.15% per year increment to its own
carbon intensity goal. However, efficiency and
conservation options are less tangible than
those from the other categories. Improvements
in energy efficiency will come from literally
hundreds of innovations that range from new
catalysts and chemical processes, to more
efficient lighting and insulation for buildings,
to the growth of the service economy and
telecommuting. Here, we provide four of
many possible comparisons of greater and
less efficiency in 2054. (See references and
details in Section 2 of the SOM text.)
Option 1: Improved fuel economy. Suppose that in 2054, 2 billion cars (roughly four
times as many as today) average 10,000 miles
per year (as they do today). One wedge would
be achieved if, instead of averaging 30 miles
per gallon (mpg) on conventional fuel, cars in
bon at a rate of 1 GtC/year, a wedge would be
2054 averaged 60 mpg, with fuel type and
achieved by displacing 1400 GW of baseload coal
distance traveled unchanged.
with baseload gas by 2054. The power shifted to
Option 2: Reduced reliance on cars. A
gas for this wedge is four times as large as the total
wedge would also be achieved if the average
current gas-based power.
fuel economy of the 2 billion 2054 cars were
Option 6: Storage of carbon captured in
30 mpg, but the annual distance traveled were
power plants. Carbon capture and storage
5000 miles instead of 10,000 miles.
(CCS) technology prevents about 90% of the
Option 3: More efficient buildings. According
fossil carbon from reaching the atmosphere,
to a 1996 study by the IPCC, a wedge is the
so a wedge would be provided by the instaldifference between pursuing and not pursuing
lation of CCS at 800 GW of baseload coal
“known and established approaches” to energyplants by 2054 or 1600 GW of baseload
efficient space heating and cooling, water heating,
natural gas plants. The most likely approach
lighting, and refrigeration in residential
buildings. These approaches reduce midcentury
from buildings by
About half of potential savings are in the
buildings in developing countries (1).
Option 4: Improved power plant
efficiency. In 2000,
coal power plants,
operating on average
at 32% efficiency,
produced about onefourth of all carbon
emissions: 1.7 GtC/
year out of 6.2 GtC/
year. A wedge would
be created if twice today’s quantity of
coal-based electricity
in 2054 were produced at 60% instead
of 40% efficiency.
Category II: Decarbonization of Electricity and Fuels
(See references and
details in Section 3
of the SOM text.)
Option 5: SubstiFig. 1. (A) The top curve is a representative BAU emissions path for global
tuting natural gas for carbon emissions as CO from fossil fuel combustion and cement manufac2
coal. Carbon emis- ture: 1.5% per year growth
starting from 7.0 GtC/year in 2004. The bottom
sions per unit of elec- curve is a CO2 emissions path consistent with atmospheric CO2 stabilization
tricity are about half at 500 ppm by 2125 akin to the Wigley, Richels, and Edmonds (WRE) family
as large from natural of stabilization curves described in (11), modi?ed as described in Section 1 of
gas power plants as the SOM text. The bottom curve assumes an ocean uptake calculated with the
High-Latitude Exchange Interior Diffusion Advection (HILDA) ocean model
from coal plants. As- (12) and a constant net land uptake of 0.5 GtC/year (Section 1 of the SOM
sume that the capaci- text). The area between the two curves represents the avoided carbon
ty factor of the aver- emissions required for stabilization. (B) Idealization of (A): A stabilization
age baseload coal triangle of avoided emissions (green) and allowed emissions (blue). The
plant in 2054 has in- allowed emissions are ?xed at 7 GtC/year beginning in 2004. The stabilicreased to 90% and zation triangle is divided into seven wedges, each of which reaches 1
GtC/year in 2054. With linear growth, the total avoided emissions per
that its efficiency has wedge is 25 GtC, and the total area of the stabilization triangle is 175 GtC.
improved to 50%. The arrow at the bottom right of the stabilization triangle points downBecause 700 GW of ward to emphasize that fossil fuel emissions must decline substantially
such plants emit car- below 7 GtC/year after 2054 to achieve stabilization at 500 ppm.
What Current Options Could Be
Scaled Up to Produce at Least One
has two steps: (i) precombustion capture of
CO2, in which hydrogen and CO2 are produced and the hydrogen is then burned to
produce electricity, followed by (ii) geologic
storage, in which the waste CO2 is injected
into subsurface geologic reservoirs. Hydrogen production from fossil fuels is already a
very large business. Globally, hydrogen
plants consume about 2% of primary energy
and emit 0.1 GtC/year of CO2. The capture
part of a wedge of CCS electricity would thus
require only a tenfold expansion of plants
resembling today’s large hydrogen plants
over the next 50 years.
The scale of the storage part of this wedge
can be expressed as a multiple of the scale of
current enhanced oil recovery, or current seasonal storage of natural gas, or the first geological
storage demonstration project. Today, about 0.01
GtC/year of carbon as CO2 is injected into geologic reservoirs to spur enhanced oil recovery, so
a wedge of geologic storage requires that CO2
injection be scaled up by a factor of 100 over the
next 50 years. To smooth out seasonal demand
in the United States, the natural gas industry
annually draws roughly 4000 billion standard
cubic feet (Bscf) into and out of geologic
storage, and a carbon flow of 1 GtC/year
(whether as methane or CO2) is a flow of
69,000 Bscf/year (190 Bscf per day), so a
wedge would be a flow to storage 15 and 20
times as large as the current flow. Norway’s
Sleipner project in the North Sea strips CO2
from natural gas offshore and reinjects 0.3
million tons of carbon a year (MtC/year) into
a non–fossil-fuel–bearing formation, so a wedge
would be 3500 Sleipner-sized projects (or fewer, larger projects) over the next 50 years.
A worldwide effort is under way to assess
the capacity available for multicentury storage and to assess risks of leaks large enough
to endanger human or environmental health.
Option 7: Storage of carbon captured in
hydrogen plants. The hydrogen resulting from
precombustion capture of CO2 can be sent offsite to displace the consumption of conventional fuels rather than being consumed onsite to
produce electricity. The capture part of a wedge
Economy-wide carbon-intensity
reduction (emissions/$GDP)
1. Ef?cient vehicles
2. Reduced use of vehicles
3. Ef?cient buildings
4. Ef?cient baseload coal plants
5. Gas baseload power for coal
baseload power
6. Capture CO2 at baseload power
7. Capture CO2 at H2 plant
8. Capture CO2 at coal-to-synfuels
Geological storage
9. Nuclear power for coal power
10. Wind power for coal power
11. PV power for coal power
12. Wind H2 in fuel-cell car for
gasoline in hybrid car
13. Biomass fuel for fossil fuel
14. Reduced deforestation, plus
reforestation, afforestation, and
new plantations.
15. Conservation tillage
Energy ef?ciency and conservation
Increase reduction by additional 0.15% per year
(e.g., increase U.S. goal of 1.96% reduction per
year to 2.11% per year)
Increase fuel economy for 2 billion cars from 30 to
60 mpg
Decrease car travel for 2 billion 30-mpg cars from
10,000 to 5000 miles per year
Cut carbon emissions by one-fourth in buildings
and appliances projected for 2054
Produce twice today’s coal power output at 60%
instead of 40% ef?ciency (compared with 32%
Fuel shift
Replace 1400 GW 50%-ef?cient coal plants with
gas plants (four times the current production of
gas-based power)
CO2 Capture and Storage (CCS)
Introduce CCS at 800 GW coal or 1600 GW natural
gas (compared with 1060 GW coal in 1999)
Introduce CCS at plants producing 250 MtH2/year
from coal or 500 MtH2/year from natural gas
(compared with 40 MtH2/year today from all
Introduce CCS at synfuels plants producing 30
million barrels a day from coal (200 times Sasol),
if half of feedstock carbon is available for
Create 3500 Sleipners
Nuclear ?ssion
Add 700 GW (twice the current capacity)
Renewable electricity and fuels
Add 2 million 1-MW-peak windmills (50 times the
current capacity) “occupying” 30 ? 106 ha, on
land or offshore
Add 2000 GW-peak PV (700 times the current
capacity) on 2 ? 106 ha
Add 4 million 1-MW-peak windmills (100 times the
current capacity)
Add 100 times the current Brazil or U.S. ethanol
production, with the use of 250 ? 106 ha
(one-sixth of world cropland)
Forests and agricultural soils
Decrease tropical deforestation to zero instead of
0.5 GtC/year, and establish 300 Mha of new tree
plantations (twice the current rate)
Apply to all cropland (10 times the current usage)
Can be tuned by carbon policy
Car size, power
Urban design, mass transit, telecommuting
Weak incentives
Advanced high-temperature materials
Competing demands for natural gas
Technology already in use for H2 production
H2 safety, infrastructure
Increased CO2 emissions, if synfuels are
produced without CCS
Durable storage, successful permitting
Nuclear proliferation, terrorism, waste
Multiple uses of land because windmills are
widely spaced
PV production cost
H2 safety, infrastructure
Biodiversity, competing land use
Land demands of agriculture, bene?ts to
biodiversity from reduced deforestation
Reversibility, veri?cation
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Table 1. Potential wedges: Strategies available to reduce the carbon emission rate in 2054 by 1 GtC/year or to reduce carbon emissions from
2004 to 2054 by 25 GtC.
Effort by 2054 for one wedge, relative to 14
Comments, issues
GtC/year BAU
be created by reforesting or afforesting approximately 250 million hectares in the
tropics or 400 million hectares in the temperate zone (current areas of tropical and
temperate forests are 1500 and 700 million
hectares, respectively). A third half-wedge
would be created by establishing approximately 300 million hectares of plantations
on nonforested land.
Option 15: Agricultural soils management. When forest or natural grassland is converted to cropland, up to one-half of the soil
carbon is lost, primarily because annual tilling
increases the rate of decomposition by aerating
undecomposed organic matter. About 5…
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