Note that nuclear is part of the “net zero” solution, otherwise, provided without comment, h/t to WUWT reader Alan Tomaly
Path to zero carbon emissions
Models show that to avert dangerous levels of climate change, global carbon dioxide emissions must fall to zero later this century. Most of these emissions arise from energy use. Davis et al.review what it would take to achieve decarbonization of the energy system. Some parts of the energy system are particularly difficult to decarbonize, including aviation, long-distance transport, steel and cement production, and provision of a reliable electricity supply. Current technologies and pathways show promise, but integration of now-discrete energy sectors and industrial processes is vital to achieve minimal emissions.
Net emissions of CO2 by human activities—including not only energy services and industrial production but also land use and agriculture—must approach zero in order to stabilize global mean temperature. Energy services such as light-duty transportation, heating, cooling, and lighting may be relatively straightforward to decarbonize by electrifying and generating electricity from variable renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar) and dispatchable (“on-demand”) nonrenewable sources (including nuclear energy and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage). However, other energy services essential to modern civilization entail emissions that are likely to be more difficult to fully eliminate. These difficult-to-decarbonize energy services include aviation, long-distance transport, and shipping; production of carbon-intensive structural materials such as steel and cement; and provision of a reliable electricity supply that meets varying demand. Moreover, demand for such services and products is projected to increase substantially over this century. The long-lived infrastructure built today, for better or worse, will shape the future.
Here, we review the special challenges associated with an energy system that does not add any CO2 to the atmosphere (a net-zero emissions energy system). We discuss prominent technological opportunities and barriers for eliminating and/or managing emissions related to the difficult-to-decarbonize services; pitfalls in which near-term actions may make it more difficult or costly to achieve the net-zero emissions goal; and critical areas for research, development, demonstration, and deployment. It may take decades to research, develop, and deploy these new technologies.
A successful transition to a future net-zero emissions energy system is likely to depend on vast amounts of inexpensive, emissions-free electricity; mechanisms to quickly and cheaply balance large and uncertain time-varying differences between demand and electricity generation; electrified substitutes for most fuel-using devices; alternative materials and manufacturing processes for structural materials; and carbon-neutral fuels for the parts of the economy that are not easily electrified. Recycling and removal of carbon from the atmosphere (carbon management) is also likely to be an important activity of any net-zero emissions energy system. The specific technologies that will be favored in future marketplaces are largely uncertain, but only a finite number of technology choices exist today for each functional role. To take appropriate actions in the near term, it is imperative to clearly identify desired end points. To achieve a robust, reliable, and affordable net-zero emissions energy system later this century, efforts to research, develop, demonstrate, and deploy those candidate technologies must start now.
Combinations of known technologies could eliminate emissions related to all essential energy services and processes, but substantial increases in costs are an immediate barrier to avoiding emissions in each category. In some cases, innovation and deployment can be expected to reduce costs and create new options. More rapid changes may depend on coordinating operations across energy and industry sectors, which could help boost utilization rates of capital-intensive assets, but this will require overcoming institutional and organizational challenges in order to create new markets and ensure cooperation among regulators and disparate, risk-averse businesses. Two parallel and broad streams of research and development could prove useful: research in technologies and approaches that can decarbonize provision of the most difficult-to-decarbonize energy services, and research in systems integration that would allow reliable and cost-effective provision of these services.
We have enumerated here energy services that must be served by any future net-zero emissions energy system and have explored the technological and economic constraints of each. A successful transition to a future net-zero emissions energy system is likely to depend on the availability of vast amounts of inexpensive, emissions-free electricity; mechanisms to quickly and cheaply balance large and uncertain time-varying differences between demand and electricity generation; electrified substitutes for most fuel-using devices; alternative materials and manufacturing processes including CCS for structural materials; and carbon-neutral fuels for the parts of the economy that are not easily electrified. The specific technologies that will be favored in future marketplaces are largely uncertain, but only a finite number of technology choices exist today for each functional role. To take appropriate actions in the near-term, it is imperative to clearly identify desired endpoints. If we want to achieve a robust, reliable, affordable, net-zero emissions energy system later this century, we must be researching, developing, demonstrating, and deploying those candidate technologies now.
Full report here: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6396/eaas9793.full