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Scientists Confronting Climate Change

In today's Searching for Solutions report, Paul Sisco reports on what some scientists say can be done to reduce carbon emissions and cool off global warming.

Many scientists believe that the problem of climate change is huge, but Princeton University's Michael Oppenheimer is among those scientists who believe it is solvable. He says, "Number one, there is no magic bullet; there is no one technology that is going to get us out of the problem. But number two, there are a lot of small pieces that can be put together."

Oppenheimer is a member of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that, along with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, received this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

He is also part of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative. It is a joint project of Princeton University, British Petroleum and the Ford Motor Company, that developed what is called the "wedge concept" to stabilize the environment.

Each wedge in the concept represents a different way that emissions can be reduced by one billion tons a year. By doubling fuel efficiency for automobiles worldwide, carbon emissions could be lowered one wedge.

And by adding 50 times more wind generators to replace coal plants, the carbon emissions from the production of electricity would be lowered another wedge. Turn another 1,400 coal fired plants into cleaner natural gas plants -- another billion tons saved.

Project scientists have identified 15 wedges. They say that any seven of them together could stabilize global emissions at current levels by about 2050.

Oppenheimer says, "Take small baby steps today, somewhat bigger steps tomorrow and even bigger steps 20 and 30 years from now and we can eventually get on a path that will stabilize the climate."

The steps, or wedge options, include:

  • greater reliance on nuclear power
  • more efficient farming
  • use of cleaner technologies
  • reversing rain forest destruction
  • capturing and storing carbon emissions underground

Scientists say the steps needed to level off carbon emissions, though painful, are affordable. Al Gore and all those honored by the Nobel committee agree the longer the world waits, the more costly the solutions will be.

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