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Energy implications of future stabilization of atmospheric CO2 content, Martin I. Hoffert, Ken Caldeira, Atul K. Jain, et al., (1998) Nature 395: 881-884.  29 October 1998.

Quantitative scenarios of atmospheric carbon dioxide content and carbon-free power requirements are presented, based on the Kaya identity, which incorporates global population size, per capita GDP, primary energy intensity and carbon intensity.  Projections of these factors show that carbon emissions growth will depend critically on technology deployed in developing nations, counting on a net primary energy intensity decline as countries move past infrastructure development to less energy-intensive economies.  In 1990, the world total primary energy 'burn rate' was about 10 TW, including about 1 TW carbon-free power.  Stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide content at double the current level (i.e. at 750 ppm) by 2050 will require at least an additional 10 TW of carbon-free power if the global rate of energy intensity (watt-years/ 1990 US $) declines by about 1%/ year.  Lesser declines in this energy efficiency factor or the greater use of fossil carbon fuels like coal in the power mix cause this carbon-free power requirement to escalate markedly, up to 40 TW by 2050.  And a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide may produce levels of climate change which are unacceptable.

The authors note that "There are no energy systems technologically ready at present to produce the required amounts of carbon-free power".  They further note that deployment of this magnitude may require large international efforts "pursued with the urgency of the Manhattan Project or the Apollo space programme".  Just as accelerated technology efforts during World War II and the cold war produced technology which developed commercial aviation, radar, chips, lasers and the Internet, meeting this challenge could stimulate new industries in the next century.


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