The cost of the IPCC carbon target

The full paper can be found here

Giv­en pro­ject­ed world pop­u­la­tion dynam­ics, this objec­tive requires reduc­ing per capi­ta emis­sions in the sec­ond half of this cen­tu­ry from about 2 tonnes car­bon equiv­a­lent (tC) to about 0.3 tC per year. In oth­er words, the world will have to cut emis­sions to the per capi­ta aver­age of India today – quite a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion for most indus­tri­alised coun­tries (US aver­age per capi­ta emis­sions are about 5tC) and for coun­tries that aim at sim­i­lar lifestyle stan­dards. For exam­ple, 0.3 tC is the amount of green­house gas­es emit­ted by an indi­vid­ual fly­ing – one way – from the EU to the US East coast!”(Vox EU)

An essen­tial com­po­nent of a 550ppm goal would be a dras­tic change in pow­er generation. 

1. Coal:

… the nec­es­sary invest­ments are very large. To achieve the 550 ppm tar­get, between 30 and 40 1 gigawatt (GW) coal-with-CCS [car­bon cap­ture and seques­tra­tion] pow­er plants need to be built each year from 2015 onwards, a val­ue in line with the his­tor­i­cal capac­i­ty build­ing of tra­di­tion­al coal plants (that make up for rough­ly 50% of elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­at­ed in the world)

2. Nuclear:

How­ev­er, 20 1GW nuclear plants or more would need to be built each year in the next half cen­tu­ry, bring­ing the nuclear indus­try back to the con­struc­tion rates of the 1980s. Exter­nal costs, such as those relat­ed to nuclear waste dis­pos­al or pro­lif­er­a­tion risks, could make this sce­nario undesirable

3. Renew­ables

Despite a small absolute poten­tial of renew­ables, an almost three-fold capac­i­ty expan­sion with respect to a base­line scenario—more than for any oth­er gen­er­a­tion technology—and an over­all 17-fold expan­sion of present installed capac­i­ty should be achieved by 2050. This is equiv­a­lent to about 60,000 new large open-sea wind tur­bines. What a dif­fer­ent world!

TA find­ings in the paper con­cerns the out­put of a cost mod­el. The Ital­ian researchers put the costs at between 2.1 and 3.7 % of world GDP over the course of the 21st century

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