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REVIEW Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies S. Pacala 1 * and R. Socolow 2 * Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientiFc, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century. A portfolio of technologies now exists to meet the world’s energy needs over the next 50 years and limit atmospheric CO 2 to a trajectory that avoids a doubling of the preindustrial concentration. Every element in this portfolio has passed beyond the laboratory bench and demonstration project; many are already implemented some- where at full industrial scale. Although no element is a credible candidate for doing the entire job (or even half the job) by itself, the portfolio as a whole is large enough that not every element has to be used. The debate in the current literature about stabi- lizing atmospheric CO 2 at less than a doubling of the preindustrial concentration has led to needless confusion about current options for mitigation. On one side, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has claimed that “technologies that exist in operation or pilot stage today” are sufficient to follow a less-than- doubling trajectory “over the next hundred years or more” [( 1 ), p. 8]. On the other side, a recent review in Science asserts that the IPCC claim demonstrates “misperceptions of techno- logical readiness” and calls for “revolutionary changes” in mitigation technology, such as fu- sion, space-based solar electricity, and artificial photosynthesis ( 2 ). We agree that fundamental research is vital to develop the revolutionary mitigation strategies needed in the second half of this century and beyond. But it is important not to become beguiled by the possibility of revolutionary technology. Humanity can solve the carbon and climate problem in the first half of this century simply by scaling up what we already know how to do. What Do We Mean by “Solving the Carbon and Climate Problem for the Next Half-Century”? Proposals to limit atmospheric CO 2 to a con- centration that would prevent most damaging climate change have focused on a goal of 500 6 50 parts per million (ppm), or less than double the preindustrial concentration of 280 ppm ( 3 7 ). The current concentration is ; 375 ppm. The CO 2 emissions reductions necessary to achieve any such target depend on the emis- sions judged likely to occur in the absence of a focus on carbon [called a business-as-usual (BAU) trajectory], the quantitative details of the stabilization target, and the future behavior of natural sinks for atmospheric CO 2 (i.e., the oceans and terrestrial biosphere). We focus ex- clusively on CO 2 , because it is the dominant anthropogenic greenhouse gas; industrial-scale mitigation options also exist for subordinate gases, such as methane and N 2 O. Very roughly, stabilization at 500 ppm
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This note was uploaded on 06/04/2011 for the course PCB 4043 taught by Professor Osenberg during the Fall '10 term at University of Florida.

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