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Wedges: The Sequel

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorSeptember 28, 2011 6:27 PM


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In his 2010 book, The Climate Fix, Roger Pielke Jr. writes:

The view that decarbonization of the global economy is a political problem and not a technological problem has been strongly influenced by a 2004 analysis by two Princeton researchers, Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, that was published in Science. The analysis is often referred to by its very useful focus on a concept called a "stabilization wedge"...In their paper, Pacala and Socolow identified fifteen possible stabilization wedges, including approaches such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) from coal power plants, enhanced nuclear power, and improved soil management in agriculture."

After detailing a major critique of the wedges approach by NYU's Martin Hoffert, RPJ goes on to write:

The stabilization wedges and the IPCC have shaped the policy debate on decarbonization away from technological innovation, under an assumption that we have all the technologies that we need (or soon will have them). In a very practical sense, that assumption is very likely to be wrong....any commonsense climate policy will take a look at the real numbers behind the stabilization wedges and recognize that technological innovation must be a central strategy behind any effective policy focused on accelerating decarbonization.

Earlier this year, it was widely reported that one of the co-authors, Robert Socolow, had come to regret that the "wedges" thesis was grossly oversimplified by climate advocates, making it seem that it would be easier to achieve than it really was. However, he quickly walked back that story and now, this week, has firmly doubled down on the "wedges" scheme. Andy Revkin has valuably elicited reactions from experts over at Dot Earth. He also links to reactions from Freeman Dyson and Nicholas Stern. So Andy has provided a nice one-stop shop for this renewed, and very important debate.

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