11 January 2011

Joe Romm Finally Gets His Math Right

It has taken two years, but Joe Romm finally appreciates the true mathematical scale of the energy technology challenge implied by a goal of stabilizing carbon dioxide concentrations at a low level. 

Joe writes that we need to achieve 12-14 "wedges" of carbon-free energy.  What does a "wedge" imply to Joe?
. . . to do this [one wedge] by 2050 would require adding globally, an average of 17 [nuclear] plants each year, while building an average of 9 plants a year to replace those that will be retired, for a total of one nuclear plant every two weeks for four decades — plus 10 Yucca Mountains to store the waste.
If one wedge implies a need for 26 nuclear plants per year, then 14 wedges implies 26 * 14 = 364 plants per year, or the equivalent effort of one nuclear power plant per day from now until 2050.  Obviously, assumptions mean that it could be a little more or a little less.  And the use of nuclear plants here is simply to illustrate the scale of the challenge, not to propose or suggest that this is even remotely possible or desirable.

Joe's conclusion is just about the exact same conclusion that you'll find on p. 116 of The Climate Fix.  Nice work Joe!