New study says we have to stop building CO2 emitting infrastructure right now

Its too late for this.
CC BY 2.0 Its too late for this/ Robert Ashworth on Flickr

We also have to start retiring what we already have and replacing it with cleaner power plants, furnaces and vehicles. Now.

A new study was just released, titled Committed emissions from existing energy infrastructure jeopardize 1.5 °C climate target, that concludes:

...our emission estimates suggest that little or no additional CO2-emitting infrastructure can be commissioned, and that infrastructure retirements that are earlier than historical ones (or retrofits with carbon capture and storage technology) may be necessary, in order to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals.

In summary, this means that just maintaining the status quo, the stuff that is running now, the fossil fuel extraction going on right now, is more than enough to put CO2 levels high enough to end any chances of limiting warming to 1.5 C. And any planned infrastructure investments (like the big new pipeline in Canada) have to be shelved immediately. According to Phys.org,

"We need to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by midcentury to achieve stabilization of global temperatures as called for in international agreements such as the Paris accords," said lead author Dan Tong, a UCI postdoctoral scholar in Earth system science. "But that won't happen unless we get rid of the long-lasting power plants, boilers, furnaces and vehicles before the end of their useful life and replace them with non-emitting energy technologies."

Science writer Mark Lynas is blunt:


Instead, where are we going?


Another study author warns in Phys.org:

"Our results show that there's basically no room for new CO2-emitting infrastructure under the international climate goals," said co-author Steven Davis, a UCI associate professor of Earth system science. "Rather, existing fossil fuel-burning power plants and industrial equipment will need to be retired early unless they can be feasibly retrofitted with carbon capture and storage technologies or their emissions are offset by negative emissions. Without such radical changes, we fear the aspirations of the Paris agreement are already at risk."

In New York, activist Doug Gordon might say, "Let's all argue about parking spaces." In Canada, they will argue about who is doing the most to build pipelines or fight carbon taxes or rip out electric charging stations at highway rest stops. In the US? It is Independence Day there so I will spare everyone. Or as PassiveHouse Plus writer Kate concludes:


New study says we have to stop building CO2 emitting infrastructure right now
We also have to start retiring what we already have and replacing it with cleaner power plants, furnaces and vehicles. Now.

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