Energy implications of future stabilization of atmospheric CO2 content

Martin I. Hoffert, Ken Caldeira, Atul K. Jain, Erik F. Haites, L. D.Danny Harvey, Seth D. Potter, Michael E. Schlesinger, Stephen H. Schneider, Robert G. Watts, Tom M.L. Wigley, Donald J. Wuebbles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change calls for 'stabilization of greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system...'. A standard baseline scenario that assumes no policy intervention to limit greenhouse-gas emissions has 10TW (10 x 1012 watts) of carbon- emission-free power being produced by the year 2050, equivalent to the power provided by all today's energy sources combined. Here we employ a carbon- cycle/energy model to estimate the carbon-emission-free power needed for various atmospheric CO2 stabilization scenarios. We find that CO2 stabilization with continued economic growth will require innovative, cost- effective and carbon-emission-free technologies that can provide additional tens of terawatts of primary power in the coming decades, and certainly by the middle of the twenty-first century, even with sustained improvement in the economic productivity of primary energy. At progressively lower atmospheric CO2-stabilization targets in the 750-350 p.p.m.v. range, implementing stabilization will become even more challenging because of the increasing demand for carbon-emission-free power. The magnitude of the implied infrastructure transition suggests the need for massive investments in innovative energy research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)881-884
Number of pages4
Issue number6705
StatePublished - Oct 29 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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