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Energy Currents
A Blog by Enerdynamics

Do We Have the Tools to Address Climate Change?

by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President and Lead Facilitator

Climate change appears to be happening quickly. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earth’s temperature has risen by 0.14° F (0.08° C) per decade since 1880, and the rate of warming over the past 40 years is more than twice that per decade since 1981. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005. The following graph showing yearly surface temperatures compared to the 20th-century average surface temperature from 1880–2020 illustrates the dramatic trend:

          Source: NOAA website

So are we doomed to ever-increasing temperatures and the consequences of melting of ice packs, flooding, interruption of food production, water shortages, and more severe weather incidents? To some extent, yes, it appears some ongoing temperature rise is inevitable. But the current goal among signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement is to limit the temperature rise compared to pre-industrial times to 2.7° F (1.5° C). The Recent Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identifies many options now available that offer substantial potential to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are resulting in the temperature rise. The following graph shows the options the IPCC identified, their potential contributions, and their estimated cost:

Source: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Working Group II Contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Summary for Policy Makers, page 51

Since the above graph is a bit complex, let’s explore the conclusions. First, the report finds potential reductions in six key areas:

  • Energy
  • Agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU)
  • Buildings
  • Transport
  • Industry
  • Other (fluorinated gases and emissions from solid waste/wastewater)

Six key options make up the largest potential (listed in order of potential):

  1. Solar energy
  2. Reduced conversion of forests and other ecosystems
  3. Wind energy
  4. Carbon sequestration in agriculture
  5. Ecosystem restoration, afforestation (planting trees to create new forest), and reforestation (replanting a forest)
  6. Industrial fuel switching to electrification, natural gas, bioenergy, or clean hydrogen

While some options seem costly, many come with low costs or even cost savings. Options offering potential cost savings include:

  • Wind energy
  • Solar energy
  • Nuclear energy
  • Reducing natural gas emissions in the gas and oil industry
  • Avoiding building demand for energy services through demand management
  • Increasing efficiency of building lighting, appliances, and other equipment
  • Transitioning to more fuel-efficient light- and heavy-duty vehicles
  • Shifts to public transport, bikes, and e-bikes
  • Increasing efficiency in shipping and aviation
  • Reducing emissions of fluorinated gases and from solid waste

Many other options exist in the range of a cost of 0 to 20 U.S. dollars per ton of CO2 equivalent.

So what can we conclude? The good news is we have many tools to achieve the Paris Agreement goals, and some are available at low costs. However, the challenge is that actually getting the tools in wide use will require ongoing strong efforts by governments, industry leaders, and citizens. Whether humans worldwide have the desire and capability of performing such efforts will determine the future of our planet’s weather patterns.

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GHG , Climate change , Greenhouse gas ,