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New research suggests climate change solution must focus on technology

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Published: 2 Dec 2009

McGill's Isabel Galiana and Christopher Green argue that fostering a technology revolution, not setting emissions targets, is the key to stabilizing the climate

McGill's Isabel Galiana and Christopher Green argue that fostering a technology revolution, not setting emissions targets, is the key to stabilizing the climate

In an article that appears in the December 3, 2009 issue of the science journal Nature, Professor Christopher Green of McGill's School of Environment and Department of Economics and PhD student Isabel Galiana make the case for abandoning emission reduction targets in favor of a technology-led climate policy.

"Let the global technology race begin," sets out an alternative route to emission reductions, one that, unlike the emission-reduction target approach, really has the capability of eventually stabilizing climate.

According to Galiana and Green, "The fixation on near-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the climate meeting in Copenhagen has resulted in insufficient attention towards the technological means of achieving them." Instead of making emission reduction targets and commitments to them the centerpiece of climate policy, Galiana and Green suggest an alternative "technology-led" approach.

A technology-led climate policy would "replace emissions targets with credible long-term global commitments to invest in energy R&D". These commitments would be financed by a low, $5.00 per tonne charge on emitted carbon dioxide. Over time the charge would gradually rise, doubling, say, every ten years, thereby providing inducements to deploy and diffuse low carbon technologies when they are ready.

Galiana and Green argue that a technology-led climate policy is needed because "stabilizing climate is a huge technological challenge" and "the solution of ready-to-deploy, scalable low carbon technologies is far from being a reality." An energy technology revolution, which would transform our energy and energy-using systems, is required in order to eliminate the threat to the global climate system of increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon.

If the road from Copenhagen is to be paved with success, something very different than impossible-to-keep commitments to emissions reductions-targets are needed, suggest Green and Galiana. "The race to solve the climate problem will be won by Aesop's tortoise, not the hare."

Read "Let the global technology race begin" on Nature's website: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7273/full/462570a.html

 

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