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Saving the planet: Emissions scenarios, stabilization issues, and uncertainties “NCAR Summer Colloquium on Climate and Health” NCAR, Boulder, CO. 19 July,

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Presentation on theme: "Saving the planet: Emissions scenarios, stabilization issues, and uncertainties “NCAR Summer Colloquium on Climate and Health” NCAR, Boulder, CO. 19 July,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Saving the planet: Emissions scenarios, stabilization issues, and uncertainties “NCAR Summer Colloquium on Climate and Health” NCAR, Boulder, CO. 19 July, 2006 Tom Wigley, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO.

2 Introduction The climate change problem is essentially an energy problem that requires moving away from the use of fossil fuels as our primary energy source. This will almost certainly require the development of new “carbon-free” (or “carbon neutral”) energy technologies. To determine the magnitude of this technological challenge we need to know what will happen in the absence of policies to limit climate change, and what a safe level may be for future climate change.

3 Summary Climate changes observed over the 20 th century Future climate change: the no-policy case Future climate change: stabilization policies Future changes in energy production Carbon-free energy requirements for stabilization Technology options The ‘wedge’ concept Geoengineering


5 Observed temperature changes 5 of the 6 warmest years have occurred this decade. 1998 was unusually warm due to a large El Niño that occurred in 1997/8.

6 FUTURE CLIMATE CHANGE (in the absence of policies to reduce climate change)

7 The SRES ‘no-policy’ emissions scenarios The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has sponsored production of a set of 40 ‘no-climate-policy’ emissions scenarios for GHGs, sulfur dioxide, and other gases These scenarios are based on a range of assumptions for future population and economic growth, technological change, etc., grouped into four families or ‘storylines’ (A1, A2, B1, B2) The scenarios are published in a Special Report on Emissions Scenarios – hence the acronym SRES Six of these scenarios have been used for detailed climate calculations (A1B, A1FI, A1T, A2, B1, B2) “Special Report on Emissions Scenarios”, Eds. N. Nakicenovic & R. Swart, C.U.P. (2000)

8 SRES scenarios: Family characteristics AB DRIVING THEMES EconomicsEnvironmentalism 1 Globalism Market forces Economic and technological convergence Sustainable development Economic and technological convergence 2 Regionalization Market forces Slower economic growth Sustainable development Slower economic growth

9 SRES population projections

10 Economic growth: per capita GDP

11 SRES fossil CO2 emissions Remember, the ‘B’ scenarios focus on sustainable development.

12 SRES CO2 concentration projections NOTE: Increasing CO2 is not only a climate problem. Increasing CO2 makes the ocean more acidic, eventually making it impossible for carbonate shell-producing animals to produce shells. Extinction of these animals will upset the ocean food chain and could lead to much larger scale extinctions


14 2000–2100 radiative forcing breakdown Factor A1BA1FIA1TA2B1B2 CO 2 (% of total forcing) 3.59 (73%) 5.35 (67%) 2.45 (63%) 4.60 (66%) 2.07 (71%) 2.83 (63%) CH 4 0.080.640.150.63–0.080.41 N2ON2O 0.170.430.120.390.180.14 Trop. Ozone 0.140.880.100.86–0.160.42 Aerosols 0.620.570.790.170.790.43 Montreal gases –0.23 Other halos 0.30 0.310.300.140.28 Strat. Ozone 0.20 TOTAL 4.898.033.896.922.924.49 NOTE: Dominant role of CO2

15 Global-mean temperature projections

16 Future warming compared with the past


18 Article 2 of the UNFCCC Article 2 provides the basis for climate policy. Its objective is … “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations ….. at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system ….. within a time- frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”.

19 CO2 stabilization pathways POINTS TO NOTE 1.Stabilization of CO2 concentration requires, eventually, very large reductions in CO2 emissions. The arrow shows the reduction in 2050 if we wish to stabilize at 450ppm 2.Since most CO2 comes from energy usage, stabilizing CO2 requires that we need to obtain a large fraction of future energy from carbon-free sources. 3.A key issue is, what should the stabilization level be in order to avoid “dangerous interference with the climate system”?


21 PRIMARY ENERGY BREAKDOWN NOTE: Even in the absence of climate policies, large increases are projected for carbon-free energy

22 HOW MUCH ADDITIONAL CARBON-FREE ENERGY IS REQUIRED FOR CO2 CONCENTRATION STABILIZATION? The answer depends on the assumed no-policy baseline scenario (35 possibilities in the SRES scenario set) – and on the chosen concentration stabilization level (also a wide range of possibilities). This implies a wide uncertainty range.

23 Carbon-free energy requirements EXAMPLE: The blue lines show how much carbon-free energy is already built into the baseline scenarios In the B1 case, the vertical arrow shows the additional carbon-free energy required to move from the no-policy B1 scenario to the WRE450 stabilization pathway. Note that B1 is a very optimistic scenario – other baseline scenarios require much greater amounts of additional carbon- free energy.

24 Extra carbon-free energy needed in 2050 (TW) STAB BASE Carbon- free in BASE * WRE350WRE450WRE550WRE650WRE750 A1B 15.324.618.510.86.74.4 A1FI 8.734.128.421.317.415.3 A1T 16.519. A2 5.522.817.310.46.74.7 B1 7.815.510.03.1-- B2 8.216.610.42.7-- * Current carbon-free energy  2TW

25 Extra carbon-free energy needed in 2050 (TW) POINTS TO NOTE (1) The baseline scenarios show large increases in carbon-free energy even in the absence of climate policies. This limits the options for additional carbon-free energy. (2) The large amounts of carbon-free energy required for stabilization levels of 450ppm or less will almost certainly require the development of new technologies. STAB BASE Carbon-free in BASE * WRE350WRE450WRE550WRE650WRE750 A1B15.324.618.510.86.74.4 A1FI8.734.128.421.317.415.3 A1T16.519. A25.522.817.310.46.74.7 B17.815.510.03.1-- B28.216.610.42.7-- * Current carbon-free energy  2TW


27 CO2 emissions reduction opportunities TYPEMETHODPROBLEMS TransportMore efficient vehicles Renewable fuelsEnergy for production, land availability ElectricityFuel shifting (coal to oil to gas)Limited oil reserves Coal gasificationEfficiency limit Once-through and breeder reactorsLimited uranium, cost, public opinion FusionCould be 50+ years away Terrestrial solarLand availability, storage, transmission Space solarLaunch costs WindLand availability, storage, transmission CCS CO2 Capture * and Storage Storage reservoirs, leakage * Includes direct capture from the atmosphere


29 Pacala & Socolow wedges A ‘wedge’ is a single existing technology that can be scaled up to reduce CO2 emissions by 1GyC/yr in 2055; or reduce cumulative emissions over 2005–2055 by 25GtC. S. Pacala & R.Socolow: Science 305, 968–972 (2004) Pacala and Socolow claim that a 500 ppm stabilization pathway can be followed, at least to 2055, using existing technology. This is incorrect.

30 Baseline wedges The flaw in Pacala and Socolow is that they fail to account for wedges already built into the baseline scenario. SRES baselines all contain a large amount of carbon-free energy growth (red arrow) that arises spontaneously, in the absence of climate policy.

31 Wedges required for stabilization (through to 2055) STAB BASE WRE350WRE450WRE550WRE650WRE750 A1B : 381511642 A1FI: 252319151211 A1T : 451172-- A2 : 81713854 B1 : 291062-- B2 : 181172-- Wedges already built into no-policy baseline: neglected by Pacala and Socolow.

32 Wedges required for stabilization (through to 2055) POINTS TO NOTE (1)Pacala and Socolow identify 15 existing technology wedges, each of which could be scaled up to reduce emissions in 2055 by 1GtC/yr (2)However, the total number of wedges required to follow WRE450 to 2055 is between 21 and 49 (3)We therefore need to develop new carbon-free energy technologies – probably requiring a massive investment in research, demonstration and dissemination. STAB BASE WRE350WRE450WRE550WRE650WRE750 A1B : 38 15 11 642 A1FI: 252319151211 A1T : 451172-- A2 : 8 17 13 854 B1 : 291062-- B2 : 181172-- Wedges already built into no-policy baseline


34 Geoengineering (1) Reducing CO2 emissions (“mitigation” -- i.e., moving from the use of fossil fuels as our primary energy source to the use of carbon-free energy technologies) is the standard “solution” to the climate problem. Geoengineering is an alternative approach. Geoengineering aims to offset CO2-induced climate change by deliberately altering the climate system. The earliest suggestion was to inject aerosol-producing substances into the stratosphere to provide a cooling shield – i.e., to produce a human volcano.

35 Geoengineering (2) The problem with geoengineering as a single solution is that our use of fossil fuels creates two problems, climate change and increasing CO2. Increasing CO2 makes the oceans more acidic and could lead to the extinction of all carbonate shell producing animals in the ocean. As these animals are at the bottom of the food chain, their extinction could lead to the extinction of all life in the ocean. Geoengineering cannot replace mitigation (i.e., the reduction in fossil fuel use), but it may make mitigation easier.

36 Effect of multiple volcanic eruptions MULTIPLE PINATUBOS As an analogy, we consider a case where we know the effects of a known injection of SO2 into the stratosphere, the eruption of Mt Pinatubo (June, 1991) Pinatubo released 10TgS of SO2 into the stratosphere. This is 15-20% of the current amount of SO2 that we release each year into the troposphere. The eruption cooled the planet by 0.5 – 0.7 o C.

37 Alternative geoengineering scenarios Scenarios like these produce immediate cooling, offsetting the short-term effects of increasing CO2. This means that, with geoengineering, we would not have to reduce CO2 concentrations or emissions so rapidly. This gives us more time to develop alternative, cost- effective carbon-free energy sources. -3W/m 2 is equivalent to Pinatubo every two years (5TgS/yr)

38 Concentrations and implied emissions Overshoot is the case that includes geoengineering. Note how this gives us much more time (around 20 years) to begin the required rapid reduction in CO2 emissions – i.e., more time to phase out existing energy systems and develop alternative technologies.

39 Geoengineering effects on climate The important comparison here is between WRE450 (mitigation alone) and LOW, MID or HIGH GEO (geoengineering combined with slower mitigation, but with the same CO2 stabilization level).

40 CONCLUSIONS 1.Global warming is primarily an energy problem. 2.The problem, however, is two-fold – involving both climate change and the effects of increasing CO2 on ocean acidity. 3.Solving both problems requires satisfying very large future energy demands with, primarily, carbon-free energy sources. 4.Projected carbon-free energy requirements are extremely large. They cannot be satisfied with current technology. 5.Large investments are required to develop these new technologies. 6.Moderate intervention using geoengineering could give us time to develop and implement these new technologies.

41 Thankyou.

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