Meeting Society's rising energy demand for economic and social development while mitigating the risks of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, poses a grand challenge.
This presentation examines the pace and scale of technology change in the context of global greenhouse gas emission mitigation goals, drawing on a breadth of science, technology, and economic studies. Studies highlight a set of major technology options: demand reduction, nuclear energy, carbon dioxide capture and storage, bioenergy and other renewables, and natural gas. Models show that the overall cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions increases steeply with increasing pace and scale of reductions, with exclusion of major countries or sectors from efforts to reduce emissions, and when major technology options are removed from consideration. R&D to improve technologies has the potential to reduce cost, and significant technology advances are critical to provide options for deep reductions in GHG emissions while providing affordable energy services. Studies commonly rely on idealized policies, such as a uniform worldwide price on greenhouse gas emissions to drive technology change. Experience, in addition, suggests that the pace of technology change is limited by technology gaps and implementation barriers, and driven by improvements in desired technology performance. Studies are improving the basis for recommendations regarding climate change policy design and actions to address technology gaps and barriers to their implementation.
There are, however, significant differences between the realities of energy demand and supply, and society's expectations of deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. A much broader dialogue is needed if society is to manage climate risk in an effective, efficient and equitable way -- and engineers have critical understanding and perspectives to contribute to this dialogue.