A blunderbuss is a strategy when your target is an elephant – meet the environmental elephant

Posted by | · · · · · | The Hunter Blog | 2 Comments

[tweetmeme] Safari trips in the Victorian era evoke potent imagery: Trips to Africa with a coterie of servants; tents erected ahead of the main party so as not to cause delay; fixtures and fittings so opulent they would spawn a series of Sunday Supplement articles on ‘tent chic’. The animal hunting characterized by a willful use of overwhelming force – epitomized by the blunderbuss.

But the blunderbuss was designed for a purpose: to stop an animal so large one bullet wouldn’t do. A situation two Princeton academics – the physicist Robert Socolow and the ecologist Stephen Pacala – would recognise.

They came up with 15 ‘wedges’ for mitigating climate change. There are four separate strategies for efficiency, five for decarbonisation of power, four for decarbonisation of fuel and two strategies for forest and agricultural soils. No silver bullet indeed, but plenty of silver buckshot.

The proposed 15 different programs, any seven of which could achieve the goal, are:

    1. more efficient vehicles − increase fuel economy from 30 to 60 mpg (7.8 to 3.9 L/100km) for 2 billion vehicles
    2. reduce use of vehicles − improve urban design to reduce miles driven from 10,000 to 5,000 miles (16,000 to 8,000 km) per year for 2 billion vehicles
    3. efficient buildings − reduce energy consumption by 25%
    4. improve efficiency of coal plants from today’s 40% to 60%
    5. replace 1,400 GW (gigawatt) of coal power plants with natural gas
    6. capture and store carbon emitted from 800 GW of new coal plants
    7. capture and reuse hydrogen created by #6 above
    8. capture and store carbon from coal to syn fuels conversion at 30 million barrels per day (4,800,000 m³/d)
    9. displace 700 GW of coal power with nuclear
    10. add 2 million 1 MW wind turbines (50 times current capacity)
    11. displace 700 GW of coal with 2,000 GW (peak) solar power (700 times current capacity)
    12. produce hydrogen fuel from 4 million 1 MW wind turbines
    13. use biomass to make fuel to displace oil (100 times current capacity)
    14. stop de-forestation and re-establish 300 million hectares of new tree plantations
    15. conservation tillage − apply to all crop land (10 times current usage)

But maybe that the blunderbuss isn’t enough? In an article by Joseph Romm
In Nature.com called ‘Cleaning up on carbon’
he writes

“If we are to have confidence in our ability to stabilize carbon dioxide levels below 450 p.p.m. emissions must average less than 5 GtC per year over the century. This means accelerating the deployment of the 11 wedges…”

It seems like we need a blunderbuss-machine gun. Anyone want to invent it?

Oliver Payne is author of the cognitive-behavioural communication book Inspiring Sustainable Behaviour: 19 Ways To Ask For Change published by Routledge,available in most countries on Amazon, etc, (options here), and you can download a sample of every chapter below:


Bryan Jenkins says:

September 9, 2010 at 4:16 pm

hydrogen fuel is not yet very practical and cost effective today.';


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