Research and discussion for citizens and decision makers

David Roberts

Need clean energy yesterday

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Several years ago, Nathan Myhrvold — former Microsoft exec, kajillionaire, inventor, founder of Intellectual Ventures, author of the world’s most high-tech cookbook, and all-around polymath genius type — was quoted in the book SuperFreakonomics saying dismissive things about climate activists. He was worried they might get “a real head of steam” behind their “immediate and precipitous anti-carbon initiatives.” (In retrospect, he needn’t have worried.) Instead, Myhrvold said, we should be … researching geoengineering.

He took some heat for it at the time and the experience apparently convinced him that he needs to get a better handle on things climate- and energy-related. For a guy like Myhrvold, that doesn’t just mean reading Wikipedia articles. Instead, he built a specialized set of models to capture the global temperature effects of transitions to low-carbon energy of varying speeds, using varying technologies. You know, like people do.

Flash forward a few years: Myhrvold is out with a paper on his results, co-authored with respected climate scientist Ken Caldeira, published in Environmental Research Letters.

The results are … grim.

Myhrvold and Caldeira ask the right question: What effect will deployment of clean energy have on global temperature? They take for granted that economic growth will continue as it has in the past (no small assumption, granted) and thus that 10-30 terawatts of carbon-neutral power will be needed by 2050 to meet global energy needs while limiting atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 450 ppm. (Always worth noting: 450 ppm would, according to the latest science, itself be quite dangerous.)

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Full Story: Myhrvold finds we need clean energy yesterday (and no natural gas) to avoid being cooked
Source: Grist, February 28, 2012

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