Examining the IPCC’s ‘portfolio of technologies’
In 2007, the IPCC wrote [PDF] in its Working Group III summary (page 16):
The range of stabilization levels assessed can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that are currently available and those that are expected to be commercialised in coming decades. This assumes that appropriate and effective incentives are in place for development, acquisition, deployment and diffusion of technologies, and for addressing related barriers (high agreement, much evidence).
This range of levels includes reaching atmospheric concentrations of 445 to 490 ppm CO2-equivalent, or 400 to 450 ppm of CO2. The first sentence does beg the question, what exactly does “expected to be commercialized” mean? I’ll return to that in Part 2.
So, what exactly are these climate-saving technologies? You can read about every conceivable one in the full WG III report, “Mitigation of Climate Change.” But the summary lists the “Key mitigation technologies and practices” (page 10) in several sectors divided into two groups: those that are “currently commercially available” and those “projected to be commercialized before 2030.” I will simply list them all here. In a later post, I’ll discuss which ones I believe could deliver the biggest reductions at lowest cost — my 14-plus “wedges,” as it were — and the political process for achieving them.
It is worth seeing them all, I think, to understand exactly how we might stabilize below 450 ppm CO2. Also, one of the technologies is the closest thing we have to the “silver bullet” needed to save the climate, as I will blog on in a few days.
Energy supply now commercial: Improved supply and distribution efficiency; fuel switching from coal to gas; nuclear power; renewable heat and power (hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy); combined heat and power; early applications of carbon capture and storage (CCS, e.g. storage of removed CO2 from natural gas).
Energy supply projected to be commercial by 2030: CCS for gas, biomass, and coal-fired electricity generating facilities; advanced nuclear power; advanced renewable energy, including tidal and waves energy, concentrating solar, and solar PV.
(Note to IPCC: Concentrating solar is commercial now — it better be, with nearly 6000 MW running or under contract now.)
Transport now: More fuel-efficient vehicles; hybrid vehicles; cleaner diesel vehicles; biofuels; modal shifts from road transport to rail and public transport systems; non-motorized transport (cycling, walking); land-use and transport planning.
Transport by 2030: Second generation biofuels; higher efficiency aircraft; advanced electric and hybrid vehicles with more powerful and reliable batteries.
(Hmm, hydrogen fuel cell cars didn’t make the 2030 cut, but plug-in hybrids did.)
Buildings now: Efficient lighting and daylighting; more efficient electrical appliances and heating and cooling devices; improved cook stoves, improved insulation; passive and active solar design for heating and cooling; alternative refrigeration fluids, recovery and recycle of fluorinated gases.
Buildings by 2030: Integrated design of commercial buildings including technologies, such as intelligent meters that provide feedback and control; solar PV integrated in buildings.
(Note to IPCC: Those are all already commercial. Heck, some companies are doing real-time, over-the-internet monitoring of their buildings, continuous commissioning, now!)
Industry now: More efficient end-use electrical equipment; heat and power recovery; material recycling and substitution; control of non-CO2 gas emissions; and a wide array of process-specific technologies.
(I would have singled out efficiency motors and variable speed drives here. Sad footnote: President Bush gutted the Energy Department program that had developed technology road maps with the energy intensive industries and was funding accelerated development and deployment of the key technologies.)
Industry by 2030: Advanced energy efficiency; CCS for cement, ammonia, and iron manufacture; inert electrodes for aluminium manufacture.
(A short, boring list. I might have thrown in solid oxide fuel cells, just to spice things up. The DOE program that Bush gutted was working on a lot of sexy stuff, including the inert electrodes.)
Agriculture now: Improved crop and grazing land management to increase soil carbon storage; restoration of cultivated peaty soils and degraded lands; improved rice cultivation techniques and livestock and manure management to reduce CH4 emissions; improved nitrogen fertilizer application techniques to reduce N2O emissions; dedicated energy crops to replace fossil fuel use; improved energy efficiency.
Agriculture by 2030: Improvements of crops yields.
(I guess they didn’t have many Agriculture R&D experts. Well, I’m not one. Those who are, feel free to chime in. Biochar, anyone?)
Forestry/forests now: Afforestation; reforestation; forest management; reduced deforestation; harvested wood product management; use of forestry products for bioenergy to replace fossil fuel use.
Forestry/forests by 2030: Tree species improvement to increase biomass productivity and carbon sequestration. Improved remote sensing technologies for analysis of vegetation/soil carbon sequestration potential and mapping land use change.
Waste management now: Landfill methane recovery; waste incineration with energy recovery; composting of organic waste; controlled waste water treatment; recycling and waste minimization.
Waste management by 2030: Biocovers and biofilters to optimize CH4 oxidation.
(Hmm. Maybe some advanced waste-to-fuel/energy processes, too.)
So, is the IPCC right? Can we stabilize below 450 ppm with these technologies (and the ones in the full report)? Are there 14-plus wedges here? I think so. Stay tuned.