Constructive solutions to the CO2 problem

Marchetti C (1979). Constructive solutions to the CO2 problem. In: Man's Impact on Climate. Eds. Bach, W., Pankrath, J. & Kellogg, W., Developments in Atmospheric Science, 10 . pp. 299-311 New York, USA: Elsevier/North Holland. ISBN 978-0-444-41766-4 DOI:10.1016/B978-0-444-41766-4.50029-1.

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Abstract

CO2 effects on climate receive increasing attention at the scientific, public, and political level. Most of the analyses, however, and of the talk, concentrate on the effects themselves, including the dire consequences for poor humanity. One can reflect, however, that if man has grown big enough to interfere with the great nature cycles, he may also be grown enough to take care of the problems.

In this presentation three proposals are briefly examined and their cost very roughly assessed.

The first one, originally proposed by W. Nordhaus, a fairly classical economist, uses an economical constraint, taxation, to scare the energy consumer out of fossil fuels into energy sources which do not release CO2: nuclear, solar or even biomass. Taxes are so adjusted that a predetermined CO2 level in the atmosphere will never be reached. The intermediate path is however left free for an eventual optimization, i.e. minimization of economic costs.

In the second, originally proposed by Dyson, 1012 sycamore trees should be planted, hoping they will in time mop up CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in form of standing crop and humus. Apart from a certain number of problems arising from such a large scale plantation-after all active humanity is made of only ∼109 people-the system appears up to a point selfdefeating because the decrease in albedo which comes with the trees will move temperature up, at least at the beginning, and only after many years the CO2 sequestered will compensate for that.

In the third, originally proposed by the author, a fuel cycle is suggested in analogy to the fuel cycle of nuclear reactors. CO2 is then separated from stack gases, together with SO2 and other noxious components, and then stored in proper geological structures, e.g. exhausted oil and gas fields, or in the deep ocean making use of thermohaline currents to diffuse it in depth. The same result can be obtained by separating air and burning fuels with oxygen.

The costs for CO2 control are relatively high in all three cases, but are certainly inside the capacity of the energy system to digest them.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Programs: Energy Program (ENP)
Depositing User: Romeo Molina
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2016 07:31
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2016 07:31
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/12394

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