Carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning are projected to double in the next 50 years and if this trend continues, it can lead to significant global warming by the end of the century, frequent extreme weather events, decreased food security and increased health risks to all species.
If we focus on ensuring that emissions are kept flat until year 2050 and focus on emission reductions later in the century, we may be able steer ourselves off the path we’re currently heading. Keeping carbon emissions flat would mean cutting projected carbon output by approximately 7 billion tons per year by 2054.
To pace ourselves, the world must find energy technologies that emit little to no carbon. Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, both of Princeton University have developed an initiative called, Carbon Mitigation Initiative’s (CMI) with the objective to “identify the most credible methods of capturing and sequestering a large fraction of carbon emissions from fossil fuels”. They have outlined 15 strategies that have the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by at least 1 billion tons per year by 2054 and depending on how we combine and prioritize these strategies, will determine our course.
Here they are:
- Double fuel efficiency of 2 billion cars from 30 to 60 mpg.
- Decrease the number of car miles traveled by half.
- Use best efficiency practices in all residential and commercial buildings.
- Produce current coal-based electricity with twice today’s efficiency.
- Increase wind electricity capacity by 50 times relative to today, for a total of 2 million large windmills.
- Replace 1400 coal electric plants with natural gas-powered facilities.
Carbon Capture and Storage
- Capture AND store emissions from 800 coal electric plants.
- CO2Produce hydrogen from coal at six times today’s rate AND store the captured.
- Capture carbon from 180 coal-to-synfuels plants AND store the CO2.
- Add double the current global nuclear capacity to replace coal-based electricity.
- Install 700 times the current capacity of solar electricity.
- Use 40,000 square kilometers of solar panels (or 4 million windmills) to produce hydrogen for fuel cell cars.
- Increase ethanol production 50 times by creating biomass plantations with area equal to 1/6th of world cropland.
- Eliminate tropical deforestation AND double the current rate of new forest planting.
- Adopt conservation tillage in all agricultural soils worldwide.