Technology and Climate Change

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The following is an outline of the types of technology used in climate change mitigation and their costs.


Carbon Mitigation Technology

Carbon dioxide capture and geological storage (CCS) is a technology with a very great potential to contribute to emissions reduction from large point sources of CO2 emissions, especially from coal‐fired power plants.

For instance, the IEA estimates that the use of CCS would account for 20% of the global GHG emissions reduction effort to 2050 in an active mitigation scenario relative to their Baseline Scenario where no further action to reduce emissions is assumed and that “CCS for power generation and industry is the most important single new technology for CO2 savings”.

Other studies of stabilization find that CCS begins to make an important contribution to mitigation in the period around 2030, with large‐scale deployment in the latter half of the century.

Post-Combustion CO2 Capture: This process utilizes a novel sodium carbonate-based absorbent to capture carbon dioxide from power plant exhaust and generate a concentrated CO2 gas stream for reuse or permanent storage.

CO2 Capture for Gasification Systems: Scientists are developing a process for removing CO2 from raw, high-temperature and high-pressure syngas generated through gasification or reforming of carbonaceous fuels. This unique manufacturing technique produces lithium silicate-based absorbents capable of capturing CO2 at high temperatures and pressures. Used within a gasification system, these absorbents are also capable of simultaneously producing high-pressure, high-purity hydrogen.

Chemical Looping Combustion: A process employing a dual fluidized bed system (circulating fluidized bed process) where a metal oxide is employed as a bed material providing the oxygen for combustion in the fuel reactor. The reduced metal is then transferred to the second bed (air reactor) and re-oxidized before being reintroduced back to the fuel reactor completing the loop. Isolation of the fuel from air simplifies the number of chemical reactions in combustion. Employing oxygen without nitrogen and the trace gases found in air eliminates the primary source for the formation of nitrogen oxide (NOx), producing a flue gas composed primarily of carbon dioxide and water vapor; other trace pollutants depend on the fuel selected.

Biomass Gasification: A process for removing contaminants from biomass-derived syngas. The process consists of a fluidized-bed reactor with a novel tri-functional material that effectively decomposes tar into valuable fuel and removes ammonia and sulfur.

Solid-State Lighting: A new approach to energy-efficient lighting technologies based on control of the nanoscale properties of materials.

Climate Change Adaptation Technology

Adaptation technologies are classified as either "hard technology," "soft technology," or a mix of both.

Hard Technology: e.g. new constructions, different types of equipments, seawalls and drip irrigation techniques. Examples: new irrigation systems; drought-resistant seeds

Soft Technology: more concerned with management options, knowledge, know-how, organizational capacity. Examples: Insurance schemes; crop rotation patterns

Mix of Both: e.g. Early warning systems that combine hard technologies such as measuring devices and information technology and soft technologies like strengthening awareness and promoting evacuation.

Other technologies are considered Modern such as: crop hybrids and systems of drip irrigation

Other technologies are also considered High Technologies. For example: Earth Observation Systems that can provide more accurate weather forecasts; crops that are based on genetically modified organisms.

Further Examples of Climate Change Adaptation Technology:

Accommodate the changing climate by storing water in dams so it can be available during drought periods; improve seed varieties with traits, such a better tolerance of stress, salinity, drought, and temperature extremes that will be important for adaptation to climate change.

Cost of Climate Change Technology

In a major move away from global warming orthodoxy, the United Kingdom is currently in the process of studying the economic challenges of addressing climate change. Sir Nicholas Stern, a fellow of the British Academy, is leading a major review of the economics of climate change to understand more fully the nature of the economic challenges and how they can be met both in the UK and globally.

Climate change is a complex and costly problem to address, with dollar estimates for stabilizing of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere ranging from trillions to many tens of trillions of dollars. This has numerous nations, including the United Kingdom, worried about the potential for large-scale global economic disruption.

The Stern Review issued a global invitation to interested stakeholders--including academic, private sector, scientific, non-government organization (NGO), and other experts--to submit evidence on all areas relevant to the posted Terms of Reference (the issues that will be reviewed). The deadline for submissions of evidence was December 9, 2005.

Economic Review Commissioned:

The UK Cabinet Office and Her Majesty's Treasury plan to report results of the Stern Review to the prime minister and chancellor by autumn 2006.

The announcement of the review by the UK government attaches further importance to the climate change issue, following its decision to make climate change a priority for the UK presidencies of the G8 and EU. Britain assumed the presidency of the G8 earlier this year. Prior to assuming the presidency, Blair promised to make climate change a focus of his leadership.

In addition to his appointment by the prime minister as advisor to the government on the economics of climate change and development, Sir Nicholas Stern is second permanent secretary at Her Majesty's Treasury and head of the Government Economic Service. The chancellor of Her Majesty's Treasury had announced Stern's appointment on July 19.

Many Topics on Agenda:

The Terms of Reference call for examining evidence on how future economic growth in developed and developing nations relates to energy demand and emissions; the consequences of climate change in developed and developing countries, taking into account increased climate volatility risks, possible irreversible impacts, climatic interaction with other air pollutants, and possible actions and costs of adapting to a changing climate; the costs and benefits of actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy use and other sources; and the impact and effectiveness of national and international policies aimed at reducing emissions.

Following consideration of available evidence, the review will provide an assessment of the choices of policies and institutions, economics, and time needed to move to a low-carbon global economy, as well as an assessment of the potential of various approaches for adapting to climate change.

Economic Pain Predicted:

If current cost estimates are correct, there is real cause for concern. Although the Kyoto Protocol will have virtually no impact on growing emissions of greenhouse gases, it is already causing economic pain. In addition, the International Council for Capital Formation reported this November that achieving agreed-upon Kyoto Protocol targets would lead to Britain, Germany, and Italy each losing 200,000 jobs. In Spain, more than 600,000 jobs would be lost.

In an October 7, 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal, Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino remarked, "Kyoto will severely penalize the European economy. ... Compliance with the Kyoto Protocol will punish even the existing energy-producing capacity by capping emissions. The cost of energy in Italy, already higher than the European average, let alone that in the U.S., will go up even more. Given the country's lack of competitiveness, that can only be described as a self-inflicted wound."

Martino further observed, "that the [EU] would still insist on implementing the protocol must be seen as an institutional form of collective self-flagellation. Kyoto will severely penalize the European economy without bringing any real progress toward the noble aims proclaimed by the EU."

"I think reality is setting in," said Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "The most recent data show that most of the EU is not going to meet its Kyoto obligations. An economic report unanimously adopted by the British House of Lords this summer says Kyoto is a dead end and that the way to go forward is a technology-based plan. You need more R&D for future technologies before you can start mandating large-scale carbon reductions.

"Blair himself has recognized, and said more than once now, that countries will not sacrifice their economic future for Kyoto goals," said Lewis. "Countries will not commit economic suicide. Interestingly, the House of Lords report also says more attention must be paid to adaptation to climate change rather than avoidance. This approach may well prove to be the best solution."


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