Project #160298 - global warming l

General Tutors

Subject General
Due By (Pacific Time) 12/12/2016 12:00 am


This activity focuses on the stabilization wedges proposed by Pacala and Socolow (2004). Stabilization wedges were also discussed in two of our other readings, Socolow and Pacala (2006), and Kolbert, The Climate of Man, Part 3 (2005)

Pacala and Socolow propose a framework for thinking about what is required, from a technical perspective, to stabilize carbon emissions for the next 50 years. They posit that absent

intentional action COemissions will continue to increase at a steady rate, such that 50 years from now global emissions will be 7 Gigatons of carbon per year (GtC/year) higher than today. (A Gigaton is a billion tons or trillion kilograms). They calculate how much carbon reductions can be brought about by different technological solutions choices and conclude that (1) no single technology can stabilize carbon emissions but (2) combinations of already existing technologies would be sufficient to stabilize carbon emissions for the next 50 years. It takes time to develop new infrastructure, so choosing, for example, to build wind turbines on a massive scale across the planet would not mean we would could deploy this wind power overnight. The typical replacement timescale for infrastructure in the energy sector is 50 year (a power plant built today will last about 50 years), and so Pacala and Socolow assume it will take about 50 years to replace existing energy infrastructure once we make the decision to do so today.  Pacala and Socolow define a wedge as a policy choice to deploy (on a massive scale) a particular technology which will offset 25 GtC over the next 50 years. They call this a “wedge” because, assuming the technology takes 50 years to fully deploy, the offset in carbon emissions will grow from 0 GtC/year today to 1 GtC/year 50 years from now, and so the offset emissions will have a wedge shape.   

Part 1: Chose your wedges


In the first part of this homework, you are asked to select the seven wedges that you think represent the best combined carbon reduction strategy, using the pdf file "Wedges Table" on the iLearn page. Remember from the readings that 7 wedges are required to stabilize emissions over the next 50 years. Use the following rules:


1.     You should use no more than 4 wedges from any one sector.

2.     You must use whole wedges.

3.     There are no right answers; you should weigh the costs, risks, and advantages of each wedge when making your decisions.

4.      Make a table or list, in the format shown below to display your answer.




















Part 2: Challenges

For each of the wedges you chose in part 1, discuss the technical and logistical challenges that would be involved in implementing the wedge (2+ sentences per wedge). Feel free to draw on Pacala and Socolow’s (2004) discussion, or to draw on external resources.


Part 3: Stakeholder’s Evaluation

Many stakeholders will have to get on board in order to implement your proposed strategy.  Estimate the rating that you think each of the following stakeholder groups will give your stabilization triangle, based on the aspects of your strategy that would be important to them.  Each rating should be between 1-5 where 1=very poor, 3=ok, and 5=very good. Give your answers in a table format as shown below.




Taxpayers/ consumers (people like you)


Energy companies


Environmental Groups




Industrialized country governments


Developing country governments



Part 4: Reflection

Finally, discuss the following questions about global warming (which both have moral components).  Your written response should be  100+ words per question. 


1.     There is a spectrum of actions that can be done to mitigate carbon emissions.  On one end of the spectrum, an individual person can choose to reduce their carbon footprint.  On the other end of the spectrum, the world could decide on a comprehensive strategy, such as choosing seven of the stabilization wedges.  What (if any) actions do you think should be taken by individuals, countries or the entire world?  Do you think that these actions can realistically be achieved?


2.     We can define three broad classes of strategies for dealing with global warming: letting the world adjust to warmer temperatures without human intervention (doing what we did before knowing global warming was a problem), mitigation (reducing the amount of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to prevent further global warming) and geoengineering (intentional alteration of the planet’s energy balance to offset the surface temperature rise).  Which approach or combination of approaches do you think is best, and why?  Are there reasons why we should avoid any of these approaches?


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