The technologies that will save the planet

This is going to be technology week on Climate Progress. I will be describing the technologies that the nation and the world will use to avoid catastrophic warming, and discussing things like commercialization and deployment.

I will also present the “silver bullet” technology that will probably be the single biggest contributor to replacing coal by 2050 — when exactly I post will be contingent on when Salon runs my long piece on this technology.

I will lay out all of the “stabilization wedges” that I think the world will be employing. And I’ll even try to lay out a scenario for how I think the politics may play out to make this all happen.

Strangely, the more I have thought about this in the last week, the more optimistic I have become — which is the opposite of how thinking about most things climate related usually affect me. I think the world can stay below 450 ppm, if we want to, while sustaining development — and, of course, without any technology breakthroughs. Indeed, to echo Ken’s Apollo 13 metaphor, we are going to have to save ourselves with the technologies we have now (which includes what will be commercial by, say, 2020).

More to come!

9 Responses to The technologies that will save the planet

  1. Cliff says:

    Joe, I can only be optimistic about the political element if nature provides a “deus ex machina” to shock and awe the citizenry and provide a political “forcing” to action.

    Also, I just listened to a podcast of Phillip Sutton, an Austrailan who co-authored a report titled Climate Code Red, in which he also used Apollo 13 as an apt metaphor for the climate change situation.

  2. Robert says:

    The US might reduce its emissions through hi-tech. It has an energy-hungry way of doing things with lots of potential for reduction. No reason at all why you couldn’t halve your consumption to EU levels.

    After that things get more difficult. How are you going to get the masses in Asia and Africa to make similar savings? India and China are roughly where the UK was in the 19th Century, with dirty, polluted cities and factories staffed by low paid workers with few rights. China’s priority is to clamber on to to the industrial bandwagon, not complain about its air conditioning (sorry about the convolted metaphore!).

  3. kenlevenson says:

    Not that it matters so much….but just for the record:
    I read “Climate Code Red” back in February – but don’t recall them mentioning Apollo 13. And I’ve not heard the podcast. If I had, I would have most assuredly given credit to Mr. Sutton for the metaphor in my post.

  4. kenlevenson says:

    Okay – I’ve found my copy of “Climate Code Red” and on page 43, 3.1 “This is an emergency!” it goes into some detail about Apollo 13 as a metaphor for what we now face.

    So while my thought of it did bubble out of my ruminations over the weekend without a thought of CCR, honestly….I’m more than happy to forfeit any credit of “authorship of the reference”.

    To beat a dead horse – I hope – also, please note that I didn’t claim any credit for the “reference authorship” in the first place – Joe kinda hoisted it on me. Like the “Checklist Toward Zero Carbon”, which I encourage everyone to download, copy, edit, make their own – I’ve no interest in ownership of ideas around fixing the climate crisis.

  5. Lou Grinzo says:

    Two quick observations:

    Joe: You’re not the only one who becomes more optimistic the closer you look at some problems. This is exactly the path I took years ago regarding peak oil. While I’m still convinced that it will be an enormous challenge, I’m nowhere as pessimistic as I was when I first started studying it and paying too much attention to the Apocalypticons.

    Ken: Boy, you sure make a lousy blogger. Don’t you know that you’re supposed to claim ownership of everything (deserved or otherwise), and generally be much more combative? Keep up this nice guy approach and it might catch on. Pretty soon, we’ll have hordes of people treating each other with respect, using far less inflammatory language, making fewer points with strained, sarcastic posts, etc. Then where will we be???

  6. Dano says:


    Anthropogenic Global Warming will not ruin the planet. We do not need to ‘save’ it.

    It may very well ruin our civilization as we know it, but not the planet. The planet may undergo a mass extinction of plant, animal, fungi, archaea, etc species due to our actions, but it will not be ruined. It may be ruined for supporting our civilization as we know it, but the planet will not be ruined.

    Hope this helps.



  7. Peter Wood says:

    I was just browsing through some abatement cost curves for 2020 and 2030 in reports from McKinsey and co. ( see ).

    In Australia the most important technologies were avoided deforestation,afforestation, buildings (with negative cost), and wind. It the US it was more of a hodge-podge of technologies, but the most notable thing was that there was over a gigatonne CO2-e of abatement with negative cost, much of which had something to do with buildings. I’m not sure which technology will be the most important by 2050, but it seems to me that in for cheap deep emission reductions now, better buildings seems like the closest thing to a silver bullet.

    Other important technologies include better land management and anything that will decarbonise the electricity supply including wind, solar thermal, geothermal, wave power, and some promising new types of thin solar photovoltaic panels.

    PS Climate Code Red is quite a good read.

  8. Publius2012 says:

    Stay below 450 ppm???

    Are we not already at 460 ppm???

    Could someone explain this to me?

  9. There you go Publius2012 – now don’t say I never do anything for you :)