Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Midcourse correction

Because this series has turned out to be so popular, I’m going to expand it to cover more issues relevant to The Question of the Century Millenium in the headline. This post will lay out the full series as I now envision it, and the final post, probably sometime next week, will include a revised version of “The Solution,” the 14 wedges, based on recent input I have received

I am definitely open to being lobbied on the final 14 wedges. But only by people who take the trouble to go back to the original Princeton analysis (and my comments on it) and present seriously-calculated wedges that save 1 gigaton of carbon by 2050 and that don’t double count (i.e. don’t save carbon already saved by existing wedges).

That said, don’t waste your time trying to convince me there is more than one wedge of biofuels, nuclear, or coal with CCS. Too many smart people I know think those choices are already way too optimistic. [BTW, I would NOT use much of the biofuels wedge for car and light truck travel. I would use it for things like air travel and long-distance trucking.]

Here is how the series will unfold:

  1. Part 0, “The alternative is humanity’s self-destruction” [just posted], explains why failing to try to stabilize at 450 ppm is not a rational or moral choice.
  2. Part 1 (here) explained what Princeton’s stabilization wedges are, and why we probably need around 14 [four-decade] wedges, rather than 7 [five-decade wedges] to stabilize at 450 ppm.
  3. Part 2, “The Solution” explained what I believe the most plausible wedges are. This proved to be a very popular post, and the comments are well worth reading.
  4. Part 2.5, “The fuzzy math of the stabilization wedges,” explained why, yes, 14 or so wedges is in fact the right ballpark figure — even given the recent unusual coal-driven acceleration in global carbon dioxide emissions — because of a little-known assumption that Princeton made [This entry can be skipped by all non-wonks.]
  5. Part 2.6, “What is the impact of peak oil and peak coal?” explored how the world probably doesn’t have enough coal to sustain the recent CO2 trend for four decades or enough conventional oil to sustain even more historical growth trends for the next two decades.
  6. Part 3 will explain why some sort of massive government Apollo program or Manhattan project to develop new breakthrough technologies is not a priority component of the 450 ppm effort.
  7. Part 4 will explain what we should do about coal now, since we probably can’t afford to wait for a big price signal.
  8. Part 5 will explain how the increasingly painful reality of peak oil and climate change over the next two decades will create a “Midcourse correction” in national and global markets, mindset, and behavior, which will have a large, perhaps decisive, impact on the 450 ppm effort.
  9. Part 6 will look at what policies and carbon price are needed to get the 14 wedges and what role politics will play.
  10. Part 7 will take a final look at the solution, the 14 wedges, since it is already clear to me they need to be modified a bit [for instance, one of Princeton’s wedges is in fact not a wedge at all]. This post will also include links to the other posts, so it can serve as an entry point or one-stop link on this subject.