Global Climate Change and the Technology Challenge

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Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, (CO2), have led to increasing atmospheric concentrations,

very likely the primary cause of the 0.8 ºC warming the earth has experienced since the industrial revolution.

With industrial activity and population expected to increase for the rest of the century, large increases in greenhouse gas

emissions are projected, with substantial global additional warming predicted. Of particular importance are rapidly developing

countries such as China and India, whose emissions are growing rapidly in the power generation, transportation and

industrial sectors as their economies grow and standards of living improve.

The paper discusses forces driving (CO2) emissions, the levels of emission mitigation needed to constrain warming to a

given value, a concise sector-by-sector summary of mitigation options, and research and development (R&D) priorities. In

order to constrain global warming in 2100 to below about 2.5+/-0.7 ºC, the current annual 3% (CO2) global emission growth

rate must be transformed to a 1 to 3% annual declining rate for decades, as soon as possible. This will require a rapid and

radical transformation of the world's energy system. The current generation of energy technologies is not capable of achieving

the mitigation required. Recent publications were used to relate the implications of a 3.7 trillion-ton mitigation program

needed to constrain warming to the key energy sectors and the technologies within those sectors that can make major mitigation

contributions. It is concluded that an aggressive, cost effective mitigation program relying on existing technologies is

capable of mitigating only between about 25% and 45% of the required (CO2). Therefore, in the absence of fundamental lifestyle

changes, new technologies are required for the key energy-related sectors: power generation, transportation, industrial

production, and buildings. The power-generation sector and transportation sectors are particularly important, since they are

projected to grow at relatively high rates, driven especially by China and other actively developing countries.

It will be necessary to substantially upgrade and accelerate the current worldwide RDD&D effort. Given the monumental

challenge and uncertainties associated with a major mitigation program, it may be prudent to consider all available and

emerging technologies. This suggests that fundamental research on energy technologies in addition to those currently in

advanced stage of development, be part of the global research portfolio, since breakthroughs on today's leading-edge technologies

could yield tomorrow's alternatives.

It will be necessary to substantially upgrade and accelerate the current worldwide RDD&D effort. Given the monumental

challenge and uncertainties associated with a major mitigation program, it may be prudent to consider all available and

emerging technologies. This suggests that fundamental research on energy technologies in addition to those currently in

advanced stage of development, be part of the global research portfolio, since breakthroughs on today's leading-edge technologies

could yield tomorrow's alternatives.

In light of this monumental mitigation challenge, geoengineering options, i.e., those that aim at fundamentally changing

the Earth's heat transfer characteristics, should be evaluated and, if viable, seriously considered for their potential to cool the

planet and allow more time for the necessary energy transformation.

Finally, availability of key technologies will be necessary but not sufficient to limit (CO2) emissions. Since many of

these technologies have higher costs and/or greater operational uncertainties than currently available carbon intensive technologies,

robust regulatory/incentive programs will be necessary to encourage their utilization

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