Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Top British climate scientist on carbon tax

"A carbon tax will not stop fossil fuel carbon being burnt. While a modest tax would be good for turbine-builders and the Treasury, in the short-term it will not promote the technology we need to solve the problem. There’s been a lot of talk about ‘unburnable carbon’ – the carbon we shouldn’t burn if we are to keep global temperature rises below 2C. A catchy phrase, but can we really tell the citizens of India of 2080 not to touch their coal? And to those on the other side who think that solar and nuclear will someday become so cheap we will choose to leave that coal alone, I’m afraid you have some basic physics working against you. Let’s get down to some numbers. Our new research paper gives a revised estimate of the ‘Transient Climate Response’ – a term which measures how much the world will warm in the medium term as carbon dioxide levels double. We found a range of 1C to 2C, slightly down on the 1C to 2.5C range previously suggested by climate models. But much more important is another, bigger number: four trillion tonnes. That’s roughly the total amount of fossil carbon locked underground before the Industrial Revolution. So far, we’ve emitted about half a trillion tonnes as carbon dioxide, and are set to emit the next half-trillion by the early 2040s. The Transient Climate Response also happens to be a good measure of the warming we get for every trillion tonnes of carbon dumped into the atmosphere. If we emit the lot, we’re looking at well over 4C of warming, which everyone agrees would be pretty tough. Fortunately, there is a solution. It is perfectly possible to burn fossil carbon and not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: you have to filter it out of the flue gases, pressurise it, and re-inject, or ‘sequester’, it back underground."    Read more:

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