Global Warming: Problem Solved!

From the Voice of America:

A new study finds that technologies already exist to solve the problem of global warming. It says strategies employing these technologies over the next fifty years could put the brakes on rising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the earth’s atmosphere – a chief cause of global warming.

Whew. That’s a relief. Problem solved just in time for football season! Honey, could you get me a beer? The game’s about to start.

OK, that’s a totally cheap quote. The lead paragraph I excerpted above goes on to cite critics pointing out that it’s not quite that easy, on account of the “economic, social and political costs” of the plan.

The story’s about a paper in Science last month by Steve Pacala at Princeton:

Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century. A portfolio of technologies now exists to meet the world’s energy needs over the next 50 years and limit atmospheric CO2 to a trajectory that avoids a doubling of the preindustrial concentration. Every element in this portfolio has passed beyond the laboratory bench and demonstration project; many are already implemented somewhere at full industrial scale. Although no element is a credible candidate for doing the entire job (or even half the job) by itself, the portfolio as a whole is large enough that not every element has to be used.

This is one of those “it’s not that simple” problems, involving the hubris of the technician. Roger Pielke Jr. had a great take on this last month when the Pacala paper came out:

What the technocrats fail to appreciate is that even as “solutions” such as increasing fuel economy, adding nuclear power, and eliminating tropical deforestation may be technologically feasible, seeing their actual implementation represents social and political challenges. Solving poverty, disease, and wars are also similarly “simple.” Overcoming these sorts of challenges are in reality not so simple, irrespective of the state of technology.