The technology needed to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 already exists, according to a joint statement by eleven of the world’s largest engineering organisations….
The statement says that generating electricity from wind, waves and the sun, growing biofuels sustainably, zero emissions transport, low carbon buildings and energy efficiency technologies have all been demonstrated. However they are not being developed for wide-scale use fast enough and there is a desperate need for financial and legislative support from governments around the world if they are to fulfil their potential.
That’s the news release from the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME), one of the 11 signatory groups. The groups explicitly call for a peak in global emissions in 2020 and an intensive effort to train workers for green technology jobs.
Dr Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the IME, says bluntly:
“While the world’s politicians have been locked in talks with no output, engineers across the globe have been busy developing technologies that can bring down emissions and help create a more stable future for the planet.“We are now overdue for government commitment, with ambitious, concrete emissions targets that give the right signals to industry, so they can be rolled out on a global scale.”
This is really nothing new. The recent National Academy of Science report calls on nation to “substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions” starting ASAP. I’ll link to more of the literature below.
It’s worth pointing out that a 50% cut in emissions from current levels is typically considered to be what’s needed for stabilization at 450 ppm or around 2°C warming (see also “The full global warming solution: How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm”). An 85% reduction would be the path for closer to 350 ppm.
Here’s what the engineering organizations call for in their statement:
- A global commitment at Durban to a peak in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, followed by substantial reductions by 2050;
- Governments to ensure that green policies do not unfairly and unintentionally act to the detriment of one particular industry or country;
- Intensive effort to train and retrain workforces to ensure we have the right skills for the new industries that will spring up around green technologies;
- A heavier emphasis to be placed on boosting energy efficiency, which is the best available measure to bring down emissions in the short and medium term.
The eleven organisations include the Danish Society of Engineers (IDA), India’s Institution of Engineers (IEI), Germany’s Association of Engineers (VDI), Australia’s Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers (APESMA) and the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). Collectively they represent over 1.2 million engineers spanning four continents.
Yes, the U.S. is missing. Go figure.
Technology Review, one of the nation’s leading technology magazines, also argued in a cover story five years ago, “It’s Not Too Late,” that “Catastrophic climate change is not inevitable. We possess the technologies that could forestall global warming.”
In its 2007 synthesis report on the scientific literature, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that using existing technologies and those expected to be commercialized in the foreseeable future:
In 2050, global average macro-economic costs for mitigation towards stabilisation between 710 and 445ppm CO2-eq are between a 1% gain and 5.5% decrease of global GDP. This corresponds to slowing average annual global GDP growth by less than 0.12 percentage points.
So global GDP drops by under 0.12% per year — about one tenth of a penny on the dollar — even in the 445 ppm CO2-eq case (through 2050, see Table SPM.7). And this is for stabilization at 445 ppm CO2-eq, which is stabilization at 350 ppm CO2 (see Table SPM.6).
That’s similar to McKinsey Global Institute’s 2008 Research in Review, which found stabilizing at 450 ppm has a net cost near zero, and “Must-read IEA report explains what must be done to avoid 6 degrees C warming at low net cost.”. For a longer discussion on cost, see “Introduction to climate economics: Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost.”
The time to act is now.
Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research & Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy.
- Breaking: Socolow reaffirms 2004 ‘wedges’ paper, urges aggressive low-carbon deployment ASAP
- The breakthrough technology illusion