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$45 trillion needed to combat warming

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Jon Irenicus Posted: Fri, Jun 6 2008 9:59 AM

TOKYO - The world needs to invest $45 trillion in energy in coming decades, build some 1,400 nuclear power plants and vastly expand wind power in order to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to an energy study released Friday.

The report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency envisions a "energy revolution" that would greatly reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels while maintaining steady economic growth.

"Meeting this target of 50 percent cut in emissions represents a formidable challenge, and we would require immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale," IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said.

A U.N.-network of scientists concluded last year that emissions have to be cut by at least half by 2050 to avoid an increase in world temperatures of between 3.6 and 4.2 degrees above pre-18th century levels.

Scientists say temperature increases beyond that could trigger devastating effects, such as widespread loss of species, famines and droughts, and swamping of heavily populated coastal areas by rising oceans.

Environment ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries and Russia backed the 50 percent target in a meeting in Japan last month and called for it to be officially endorsed at the G-8 summit in July.

The IEA report mapped out two main scenarios: one in which emissions are reduced to 2005 levels by 2050, and a second that would bring them to half of 2005 levels by mid-century.

The scenario for deeper cuts would require massive investment in energy technology development and deployment, a wide-ranging campaign to dramatically increase energy efficiency, and a wholesale shift to renewable sources of energy.

Assuming an average 3.3 percent global economic growth over the 2010-2050 period, governments and the private sector would have to make additional investments of $45 trillion in energy, or 1.1 percent of the world's gross domestic product, the report said.

That would be an investment more than three times the current size of the entire U.S. economy.

The second scenario also calls for an accelerated ramping up of development of so-called "carbon capture and storage" technology allowing coal-powered power plants to catch emissions and inject them underground.

The study said that an average of 35 coal-powered plants and 20 gas-powered power plants would have to be fitted with carbon capture and storage equipment each year between 2010 and 2050.

In addition, the world would have to construct 32 new nuclear power plants each year, and wind-power turbines would have to be increased by 17,000 units annually. Nations would have to achieve an eight-fold reduction in carbon intensity — the amount of carbon needed to produce a unit of energy — in the transport sector.

Such action would drastically reduce oil demand to 27 percent of 2005 demand. Failure to act would lead to a doubling of energy demand and a 130 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, IEA officials said.

"This development is clearly not sustainable," said Dolf Gielen, an IEA energy analyst and leader for the project.

Gielen said most of the $45 trillion forecast investment — about $27 trillion — would be borne by developing countries, which will be responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Most of the money would be in the commercialization of energy technologies developed by governments and the private sector.

"If industry is convinced there will be policy for serious, deep CO2 emission cuts, then these investments will be made by the private sector," Gielen said.



Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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I haven't read the study, but I'm suspicious of anyone who tells me that several billion dollars will be "needed" for "learning costs" that "will" lead us to "mature technologies", and then purports to tell us what those mature technologies will be able to do, but I understand that you need to come up with a number, and that's not really that big of an objection.  I'm a little nervous about the fact that they seem to be supposing that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be a feasible solution for almost all coal and natural gas processes (especially in the BLUE scenario), which seems pretty unreasonable to me (I could be wrong about my interpretation of their charts though).  What immediately comes to mind is the question of how much money they anticipate would be spent without doing anything about climate change; developing nations will be spending inordinate amounts of money as it is to build up their energy infrastructures, so the relevant question doesn't really seem to be how much will need to be spent, but rather how much more will need to be spent. 

Otherwise, it does look like they did a pretty good job of taking into account the major technological trends as far as I'm aware of them.  I personally think that it's pretty ridiculous to even attempt a report like theirs in today's conditions: pretty much all the technologies they discuss are at relatively early stages in their development, and I'm not sure why they don't think anything completely new could come along in the next 50 years, but it seems like it would just be inherently difficult to predict what the future of the energy industry will look like with any degree of certainty whatsoever.  However, in terms of sketching one possible scenario, I think they've done a decent job of putting something on the table for people to look at and discuss.

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Kakugo replied on Fri, Jun 6 2008 11:43 AM

 As most of us expected, the whole Global Warming drama has entered the "lot of money is needed" act, which is where everything boils down to. A few countries, with little or no proof, are already thinking about how to tax their own serfs (sorry, meant citizens, I am still in my pre-1789 frameset) according to their "carbon footprint". To reassure that this won't raise the tax burden we are being told that the so-called "carbon tax" will take the place of existing forms of taxation. On the paper looks like a winner. Too bad we have come to know the enemy and we know that the "carbon tax" will simply be yet another form of taxation, to be piled on top of everything else. Yes, it has nothing to do with "making the Earth a better place" and yes, it is just a decent-sounding excuse to raise the present horrific taxation levels, especially in Europe. How can you say no to a tax that will ensure "our children will still be able to see a polar bear", those fuzzy giant stuffed animals?

A few words would need to be spent on how great companies are responding to this. Let's set aside for a few moments those greenwashing operations which have been commonplace since the '80s and focus on the issue at hand. Present day, large-scale economy can be considered a mixed system, with corporations and large industries strictly co-operating with governments. Microsoft learnt it the hard way. Nowhere else is the system more clear than in automotive industry, in my opinion the most politicized industry in the world. A not-so-hidden agenda is to force people to change their cars every three years or so (ie once they finished paying for them). Emission and safety regulations ensure that even long-running vehicle series get "updated" every four years or so. Some European countries (Italy and Belgium for example) have already tried their hands at severely restricting the sale of second-hand vehicles and, at the same time, to seduce people into buying new, "greener" cars they don't really need. This has been done with the full support and approval of the automotive industry. If I buy a second-hand Ford I'll only buy a few spare parts from them and I'll probably pay cash, but if I buy a brand new Ford, I'll buy a whole new vehicle from them and, since I won't be able to afford it, I'll need financing through the Ford financial services. At the same time the government gets a sizeable slice of it (VAT), keeps unions and bankers happy and can also play the part of the heroic knight out to save the planet from all those old Fiestas...

Together we go unsung... together we go down with our people
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Makes me wonder where they get their numbers.

This guy has a plan for zero carbon emissions by 2050 without building an additional 1400 nuke fact without building a single new nuke reactor at all.

There's a link to his book on the page that I've only read part of but it seems a reasonable goal if you can get beyond some of the assumptions like government intervention being necessary for such a plan to succeed.

The real question is does anyone expect governments not to interfere?

The premise; at a 50% worldwide decrease the US would have to cut back by 88% and at a 85% worldwide decrease the US would have to cut back to 96% of 2000 levels which is close enough to zero carbon emissions to make fossil fuels basically obsolete.

The way things are going it looks like it's getting close to the time to pick your dog in the fight.

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"How to Cripple an Economy" co-authored by Barack Obama and the Socialists of the Western World

 "The plans differ; the planners are all alike"


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