Jane C.S. Long has an interesting, and sobering, review of the work of the California Council on Science and Technology on what it will really take to get to 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This is the target that California has adopted, and what many scientists have said we need to aim for to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Minnesota has actually adopted this target in state law as well (remember the old Tim Pawlenty?), but hasn’t done much about it since.
So how can we get to an 80 percent reduction? Not easily.
Having done the maths, what did we discover? If California could very quickly replace cars, appliances, boilers, buildings and power plants with today’s state-of-the art technology, replace and expand current electricity generation with non-emitting sources and produce as much biofuel as possible by 2050, the state could reduce emissions a lot — by perhaps 60% below 1990 levels. But it would have to replace or retrofit every building to very high efficiency standards. Electricity would have to replace natural gas for home and commercial heating. All buses and trains, virtually all cars, and some trucks would be electric or hybrid. And the state’s entire electricity-generation capacity would have to be doubled, while simultaneously being replaced with emissions-free generation. Low-emissions fuels would have to be made from California’s waste biomass plus some fuel crops grown on marginal lands without irrigation or fertilizer.
To reach an 80% cut will take new technology.
That new technology includes “major advances in near-zero-emissions fuel”. According to Long, “California can’t just spend or deploy its way to an 80% reduction or beyond — and neither can anywhere else.”