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The Coming Global Climate-Technology Revolution

  • Scott Barrett
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    Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases can be reduced significantly using existing technologies, but stabilizing concentrations will require a technological revolution--a "revolution" because it will require fundamental change, achieved within a relatively short period of time. Inspiration for a climate-technology revolution is often drawn from the Apollo space program or the Manhattan Project, but averting dangerous climate change cannot be "solved" by a single new technology, deployed by a single government. The technological changes needed to address climate change fundamentally will have to be pervasive; they will have to involve markets; and they will have to be global in scope. My focus in this paper is not on the moderate emission reductions that can be achieved using existing technologies, but on the breakthrough technologies that are needed to reduce emissions dramatically. The challenges are formidable. Indeed, it is possible that the revolution needed to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases will fail. Should the climate change abruptly, the incentive to "engineer" the climate will be strong. There will be a climate-technology revolution, but its nature will depend on the institutions we develop to address the challenge we face.

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.23.2.53
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    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 23 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
    Pages: 53-75

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:23:y:2009:i:2:p:53-75
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.23.2.53
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    1. Scott Barrett, 2008. "The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(1), pages 45-54, January.
    2. Newell, Richard & Anderson, Soren, 2003. "Prospects for Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies," Discussion Papers dp-02-68, Resources For the Future.
    3. Mendelsohn, Robert & Dinar, Ariel & Williams, Larry, 2006. "The distributional impact of climate change on rich and poor countries," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 159-178, April.
    4. Klaus S. Lackner & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2005. "A Robust Strategy for Sustainable Energy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 36(2), pages 215-284.
    5. Burtraw, Dallas & Krupnick, Alan, 1996. "The Social Cost of Electricity: Do the Numbers Add Up?," Discussion Papers dp-96-30, Resources For the Future.
    6. David Keith & Minh Ha-Duong & Joshua Stolaroff, 2006. "Climate strategy with CO2 capture from the air," Post-Print halshs-00003926, HAL.
    7. Arrow Kenneth J. & Cohen Linda & David Paul A. & Hahn Robert W. & Kolstad Charles D. & Lane Lee & Montgomery W. David & Nelson Richard R. & Noll Roger G. & Smith Anne E., 2009. "A Statement on the Appropriate Role for Research and Development in Climate Policy," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 1-4, February.
    8. DeCarolis, Joseph F. & Keith, David W., 2006. "The economics of large-scale wind power in a carbon constrained world," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 395-410, March.
    9. Farrell, Alexander E. & Keith, David W. & Corbett, James J., 2003. "A strategy for introducing hydrogen into transportation," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(13), pages 1357-1367, October.
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