Monday, March 10, 2008

Zero Emissions, Anyone?

It was inevitable that this would get floated eventually:
Using advanced computer models to factor in deep-sea warming and other aspects of the carbon cycle that naturally creates and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), the scientists, from countries including the United States, Canada and Germany, are delivering a simple message: The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further.

"The question is, what if we don't want the Earth to warm anymore?" asked Carnegie Institution senior scientist Ken Caldeira, co-author of a paper published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "The answer implies a much more radical change to our energy system than people are thinking about."
Ultimately, this may factor into the "we're screwed anyway, so let's party" argument that some AGW deniers have adopted as a fallback position. That doesn't detract from the unpleasant fact that we have no idea how much AGW is acceptable, how much is likely to occur for various rates of CO2 emissions, and whether there are any mitigation strategies that would work, short of us all going off and living in mud huts.

Fortunately, the proper strategy drops out of the need to crash the oil market as quickly as possible: You need batteries or fuel cells for transportation, big honking power plants running on non-carbon sources (choose your favorite), and an electrical grid to deliver the power. The only variable in this equation that's affected by a greenhouse argument is whether or not to use coal as a primary energy source and it's pretty obvious from the existing evidence that using coal would cause something bad to happen. So let's get on with it.

Update 3/10/08: Jim Manzi goes off on the same article. I mostly agree with him, but it still doesn't change the overall strategy: Coal is most likely unacceptable for AGW reasons, oil is unacceptable for economic and foreign policy reasons. We need Something Else.

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