As the debate heats up over climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, experts from around the world met recently to discuss "Clean Energy for Development" at the World Bank's 2006 Energy Week. During today's E&ETV Event Coverage, Princeton University Professor Robert Socolow presents an innovative approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the World Bank conference. Professor Socolow explains a broad blueprint to deal with global warming, his "wedge technology" theory and why he is so optimistic about the potential for carbon sequestration.
Bob Watson: ... one of the chief scientists and senior adviser in the ESSD. And it's both a pleasure and honor to be asked to sort of chair this session, a session of one speaker, which is Rob Socolow, who comes from Princeton University, specifically the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies. Rob's worked on energy issues for a long, long period of time. And last year he put out, in my opinion, the seminal paper with Pacala, Steve Pacala, on the issue of how can we address climate change. And that's what the talk will be about today. Do we have to wait for new technologies to come to the marketplace? That is to say a revolution in energy technologies. Or do we have the technologies in place today to start to address climate change?
This has been a contentious issue between a number of governments; some governments who do believe we have the energy technologies to start our progress towards stabilizing climate, other governments argue we need a revolution in technologies. Rob will address this particular issue today and put it in the context of what do we need to do in research and development? So rather than adding any more words, Rob, over to you.
Robert Socolow: It is an honor and a bit daunting to be here with you. Some of you know so much more about aspects of what I'm going to be talking about than I do. But as Bob said, this invitation really comes because of the paper that Steve Pacala and I wrote almost two years back now, where we tried to make sense of the climate problem, basically a pedagogical tour de force. We made it simpler than it had been to people and I'm delighted that we had that effect. And I'm going to take you through that same story.
But the next question can fairly be even if we did write a good paper on climate, what am I doing here talking about that topic on a subject of energy and clean development? Well, I think there are two obvious answers. One is that the impacts of climate change are preferentially damaging in the developing world. The developing world is least able to cope with those changes. And second is that it's important, and I really hope that I will accomplish this today, to dissect the climate issue in terms of its development components. And I'm going to argue that there are two very different dimensions to that.
But I'm going to ask you first to locate yourselves on this 2x2 matrix. I want you to choose the box you're in, going into this meeting, by answering two yes/no questions. Are you of the opinion that the fossil fuel system is easily disposed of, we will move within a couple of decades beyond it? Yes and no. And will the case for the greenhouse damage wither away? Within a couple of decades will we have decided that the greenhouse problem was a bad dream, thank goodness it's over with and we can now go about our business?
It is certainly more comfortable to be either in the upper right or the lower left box. In the upper right box many people in the fossil fuel industry were of the belief, and fewer and fewer with each year, that it is a bad dream. That it will go away. But they are in an industry that is very robust. And then there are considerable numbers of people in the lower left box who are of the opinion that the greenhouse problem is truly serious. But the fossil fuel world is easily superseded.
In the '60s and '70s there was many of the people from the nuclear community who believed that they had the solution that would remove fossil fuels from the world in due course, perhaps by now. And there are many people in the environmental community who somehow believe that the renewables world can put the fossil fuel business out of, put fossil fuels out of business.
Wherever you are right now I'm going to ask you to move to the lower right box for this talk. It is where I sit. It is where I believe we are. And it is, of course, an uncomfortable box because we then have a system that we can't easily displace called fossil fuels. And we have a problem that isn't going to go away called the greenhouse problem. So I'm going to give this talk in four parts. I'm going to present this wedges model that was in the science paper that Pacala and I wrote. It's rather easy to absorb. Then I'm going to discuss specific wedges. And then I'm going to turn to the challenge of basic human needs and argue that it is, in climate terms, meeting basic human needs is a minor issue. Actually, we had a statement that sort directly earlier this morning. And then some parting thoughts.
So I'm going to ask you to think in 50 year intervals, which are the length of time of careers. We can remember 50 years back, some of us. We know the problem, in 50 years, isn't going to look to different from today. And I'm going to focus on the variable the global emissions of carbon dioxide measured in units of times of carbon per year. That is both the amount we take out of the ground, as coal, oil and gas, and the amount that we put into the atmosphere, close enough. There are small changes in stocks.
So we are now taking 7 billion tons of carbon out of the ground and putting it into the atmosphere. Fifty years ago the amount was three times, more than three times smaller. And then we'll ask you to imagine what this might look like for the next 50 years. There is a huge literature in which people argue with one another about what the amounts would be 50 years from now. It was to simplify that literature that Pacala and I said let's restrict this to two options; double the carbon emissions of today and the same carbon emissions as today.
Observing that double the carbon emissions of today is somewhere in the middle of a cloud of projections of all kinds, based on assumed economic growth rates, assumed penetration of non-carbon technologies, assumed intrinsic efficiencies of new technology, assumed server sector growth relative to primary sector growth. There are numbers all over the place. And just say doubling the emissions is what we have ahead of us if we have no deliberate attention to carbon. So we define this as business as usual, the ramp trajectory, it's no attention to carbon. And then take the flat path. No more global emissions in 50 years of carbon than today. And say that is close to the aspirations of those who think hard about the carbon problem, about what we should really try to do.
You will indeed find environmental argument that it's twice as high as it should be. That we should be trying to emit half the carbon in 50 years, globally, that we do right now. That would be, if you'd like, an attack from the left to this analysis. It would be, in my view, worthy of a very big party if 50 years from now we emitted no more global carbon than today. But it is, in some sense, a modest proposal.
One can associate the flat path with beating doubling. Now what that means is that there, I don't, I'm going to try to save some shortcuts here, but many of you don't have in your heads the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the past. But it was flat, from about year 1000, or further back than that, to your 1800s. And then it started up. And it was flat at a value of about 280 parts per million and that meant that in Shakespeare's day, when he took a breath, 280 out of every million molecules was carbon dioxide. Right now we are breathing air with 380 out of every million molecules being carbon dioxide.
Doubling means 560 parts per million of the air molecules would be carbon dioxide. We're heading up from 380 at about 2 parts per million per year. One has to remember not to repeat a number in a talk without checking it after a couple of years because it's gotten higher. We are about a third of the way to doubling. And beating doubling is one of the simple ways of describing a global goal for the carbon dioxide problem. We can, if we follow that flat path, and then head downward 50 years from now, beat doubling, head downward fairly sharply. So it creates essentially two half centuries of a single job. Or I like to call it sometimes a relay race, where this is the first leg and it's this 50 years. And then we pass the baton, having accomplished a flat path for 50 years, to another pair of generations who lower it to stabilization levels in the following 50 years. That does beat doubling. It doesn't get to the lowest possible goals.
If we were to wait 50 years and then set upon the same pair of tasks, flat path for 50 years after that and then all the way to stabilization, we would be essentially accepting tripling. And so the argument for not emitting the carbon in that green stabilization triangle is the argument that it is important to beat doubling rather than accept tripling. Now that then becomes an argument that you have to carry on with people other than myself. Understand as best you can what is at stake in climate terms, in the environmental impacts terms, of accepting tripling versus beating doubling.
And the answers are dimly understood, but there are a lot of what my colleague Pacala calls monsters behind the door. Things that show up sometimes in climate models and not in others, but that are clearly conceivable outcomes, that are nonlinear outcomes; the shutting down of the thermal haline circulation, the gulf stream that warms northern and western Europe, the reappearance regularly of the Sahel drought, which kills millions of people, damage in the Amazon, droughts. I mean there is just one issue after another that is plausible. And making a judgment together about whether beating doubling or accepting tripling, should be our objective. And I must say, somewhat to my surprise, as the public understands this problem they are saying let's get on with a solution.
And so what my talk can be about, I have a technology interest and I'm not a climate scientist, is what would it be like to beat doubling instead of accepting tripling? What does that entail? And I come with a message of optimism. I believe that interim goal, no more emissions 50 years globally -- 50 years from now than today, is achievable for three reasons. The world has a terribly inefficient energy system and I always look up at the ceiling when I get to that point and say look at the lighting in a room like this and know that it could be much better than that. Carbon emissions have just begun to be priced. I used to say carbon emissions were not priced, but the European Union has a very interesting and significant carbon market as of the beginning of this calendar year, as last calendar year. And most of the year 2055 physical plant has not been built, although it is being built, what will be around in 2055 is being built at a large rate all over the world. And so every year 2055 is that much closer.
So that what we introduced was a physical unit by saying focus on this stabilization triangle, acknowledge that in the units that I've chosen billions of tons of carbon per year are pulled out of the ground, it is seven high. And divide it into seven pieces, and define them to be stabilization wedges. It is a physical unit for discussion with two physical parameters. Fifty years from now a stabilization wedge will be achieved if the world is not emitting a billion tons of carbon per year. Then, as a result of some campaign, some strategy, some overall global goal that has been accomplished, and then ask about what kinds of -- what's available to be a stabilization wedge? That's the strategy. So a stabilization wedge with a straight line thrown in so that we don't have to think about curves and complicated things, is 50 years wide, one billion tons of carbon per year high, so it's 25 billion tons of carbon that have not gone into the atmosphere as a result of some campaign.
A hundred dollars a ton of carbon is a good number to keep in mind as something like the cost of getting most of this done. It may come down over time as we get smarter. It's approximately that which is the trading price in the European Union's carbon market at the present time. That's two and a half trillion dollars that has been -- that is at stake. Well, that's a pretty big business. It's a business opportunity.
Okay, so we will then fill the stabilization triangle with what kinds of things? Well they're in six broad categories. Many opportunities. Starting at two o'clock, and in my view, by far the most important, are energy efficiency opportunities. I want to come back to them several times in the course of this talk. Building buildings that are more energy efficient, a more efficient car fleet, more efficient industry, more efficient trucking, all across the entire use of energy we have opportunities for more efficient power plants. Then we have, where we are using energy, the opportunity to decarbonize energy, decarbonize electricity and decarbonize fuel.
Why that particular break? Because about 40% of the carbon atoms today, that would go into the atmosphere, go into them at power plants. And about 60%, not at power plants, but where carbon is burned directly, either in vehicles or in stationary applications, like a factory or a home furnace. We have to go after both. And we think about the ways of displacing the carbon that we would otherwise emit with less carbon for the same function, less carbon emission for the same function. In the power area you can make your own list. I'm going to mention a few. But take it -- you know, to discuss a wedge we need to compare two futures; a future that is somehow high in carbon emissions and one which is lower in carbon emissions.
To keep things simple, imagine that coal is king in 2055 as the high carbon alternative. And then we're talking about coal power without any treatment of the carbon dioxide, as the reference zero around -- below which you will get with one or another technology, including coal technologies. And for decarbonized fuels, imagine another future which is coal intensive. Coal is being made into the liquids that are being used in the furnaces and cars and factories. And there's also no treatment of carbon dioxide. So we've got two -- we've got the two most -- least carbon efficient technologies in front of us, a carbon power plant for power, a carbon to liquids plant. And then everything that we look at can bring you down from there, wedge by wedge.
Will you be above 14 in such a world? Well you might be, you might need more than seven wedges, but we do know that either. So for suspension of disbelief, imagine you are at 14 at that point, for various other reasons. It is my view it is harder to decarbonize fuels than to decarbonize electricity. We have fewer options. That's partly what comes out of this. In which case one of the things that will happen is that electricity will be used for what we now use fuels for. So that eight o'clock set of wedges are where you decarb -- you don't decarbonize, you replace a fuel application with a decarbonized electricity application.
For example, we have a car that runs on -- a hybrid car running half of the time on a battery and half of the time on the engine -- electricity. Now today that battery is charged from the gasoline engine, but it could be charged at home from an outlet at your home, that's called a plug-in hybrid. If that electricity sector were decarbonized you would be driving your vehicle -- half of the driving would be on the decarbonized electricity and the other half, let's say, on gasoline. Similarly the heat pumped into buildings displaces a gas furnace with an electric system, if this electricity system is easier to decarbonize. That's a class of wedges.
At ten o'clock we can build up carbon in the forests and in the soils. We reduce deforestation. We re-growth more intensive forest where we have forests now. We bring forests to where we don't have them now. We make grasslands more successful. And we put carbon into soil, building back carbon that's been removed from the soil by agriculture, by deliberate agricultural practices. All of that helps. It would be wonderful if they could produce all of the savings that way. We could go on with our energy system untouched. But my colleague Pacala is an ecologist and he tells me you shouldn't count on more than one or two wedges from the forest and soil sector.
And then of course it's important to note at 12 o'clock that carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas. There are many others, methane in particular, nitrous oxide, some of the fluorocarbons. If we knew how to manage those better than we do we could look for a wedge or two in the non CO2 world. And you probably can find them.
The summary of what I believe about this is that we have wedge technologies somewhere at commercial scale in many instances. What we did when we made our list of wedges in our paper, that I'll be showing you some of, is to insist that they be already at commercial scale somewhere in the world. That we were not talking about what somebody called pie-in-the-sky. Or we were not allowing for the R&D that will bring wedges in the second half of the century, that are not around right now, perhaps from molecular biology, perhaps from nuclear fusion. But that we could get this interim goal accomplished without them. And that it was, of course -- and we also argue, and I think you will be persuaded by the numbers, that you can't get the whole job done by any single wedge technology. You need a portfolio.
But on the other hand, and this is where the politicians can indeed have a role and enjoy themselves, you don't have to take every single thing you could look at. You have choices to be made. So there's a political process of figuring which wedges we will actually use. So I want to talk about some specific wedges, but to orient you as to where is this 7 billion tons of carbon going into the atmosphere? This is going back a few years, where the number was 6.2, and about half of that is in the two biggest skyscrapers. What you've got there is a 3 x 3 of gas, oil and coal as the fuel and three functions; generating electricity, creating the energy package for a vehicle and heating something, a building or perhaps a steel mill directly without electricity. So if you do that the numbers are kind of interesting.
Those skyscrapers are not well known, but the top two have half of the job, that's coal for power and petroleum, crude oil, for transportation. And then there are several others. The heating is almost a third by -- is a third by itself. And you see how this looks. So we can't just attack one sector. We both have to attack heating and transportation and power. And we start with efficiency. To give you an idea of what I mean by a wedge calculation, it is plausible that there will be 2 billion vehicles, personal transport vehicles, in the world in 2055. There are six or seven hundred million now, depending on how you count. So it would be triple of what we have.
And if those are going 10,000 miles a year, an assumption I didn't write here, and they are getting 60 miles a gallon versus 30 miles a gallon, a wedge is at stake. In other words, you've got two billion tons of carbon going into the atmosphere if they're getting 30 miles a gallon and one billion tons of carbon going into the atmosphere per year if they're getting 60 miles a gallon. So that's how you save a wedge. Likewise, if they're getting 30 miles a gallon, but you're driving them half as far, somehow we've reorganized our cities so 5000 miles a year is an average travel. Then you have a half a wedge saved that way. But if you have efficiency and improved use, that's one and a half wedges, not two. And you see how these things interfere. Those images of course are not of an efficient car, but of public transport and telecommuting as it's called, both of which can have a major role in affecting the amount of carbon we actually use for vehicles.
In electricity the power plant can be more efficient. We can have more efficient lighting in buildings and motor controls. And it's very hard to have -- building's data are terrible compared to all other data. How much energy are we using in buildings today? What is it being used for? How fast is buildings -- is electricity load growing because of buildings construction in the new buildings of the developing world? There needs to be a commitment to get a much better handle on this sector. More than half of electricity use in the world is going to buildings today, probably more -- probably a higher fraction than that of the new -- of new kilowatt hours are going to buildings. We need to think of buildings as equivalent to power plants. And we don't. And then when we would, we'd pay more attention to the building sector.
Of course now we can think about decarbonizing electricity. A billion tons of carbon per year are emitted when six -- when 700 modern coal plants of 1000 megawatt size run for the year. So we have 1000 -- our target is to not build seven hundred 1,000 megawatt coal plants. So that by 2055, if those plants don't exist, and something else existed and it's no carbon, we have achieved a wedge. Well one way to have that is to have, by 2055, one million two megawatt windmills on the planet that have been produced instead of coal. That would be a wedge. Those two megawatt windmills, that's about the size of the larger windmills built today. We have already got 50,000 megawatts. We're two and a half percent of the way. And it is growing at thirty percent a year. Nonetheless a million two megawatt windmills is a pretty daunting proposition. And that's one wedge.
So one of the messages is that renewable energy has a tough time producing wedges in terms of the scale of the operation compared to what we're used to on the one hand. And on the other, yes, it can contribute wedges by major attention. It doesn't make sense to have inefficient lighting connected to all these windmills or coal plants. So the efficiency coming first and then the renewable energy coming behind it is the way to think about this problem in my view.
Nuclear power is certainly a non carbon technology. It tends to be made invisible in certain conversations, not a good idea. Better to be frank that it's there, in my view. Well, 700,000 megawatt nuclear plants displacing coal is also a wedge. The reason it was 2000 windmills - 2000 and the same number that's 700 here, is that the word watt is a different word for a nuclear plant and a wind farm -- and a windmill. A wind turbine's watts are the peak watts and they run intermittently. So the factor of three I've got there is an intermittency factor. Let's leave it at that for now.
Seven hundred thousand megawatts of nuclear power is twice what we have right now, so phasing out nuclear power completely and having coal instead would be minus one half of a wedge. And tripling what we have right now would be plus one wedge. And so it goes. And we have clearly, therefore, some options, some serious options, about nuclear power. We might have any kind -- I mean nobody that I know is confident about what kind of nuclear power future lies ahead. There are clearly many alternatives.
Then we come to what is the, if you like, the savior of the coal industry, which I've set up to be the target because it can take its own future in hand. If it turns out, and this is not fully decided yet, but it's looking promising, that you can have coal power and still put the carbon dioxide not in the atmosphere, but under the ground. And assuming that you can't get 100 percent capture you could imagine 800 of these large coal plants in 2055 that have this carbon and capture system instead of not, and that would be a wedge. Can you put carbon -- most of you, I think by now, have heard of the concept that you could actually burn coal, or any other fossil fuel, capture the carbon dioxide on its way out, either from the stack or by burning it in a different way, and then put it somewhere. Largely people are imagining putting it below ground. Another option is to put it in deep ocean. That's technically possible, but politically, very unpopular.
And so it's called carbon sequestration. It is a very important option to understand. Ten years ago it was hardly on the map. Now I think -- I sure that -- how many people have not heard of carbon sequestration before this moment, in the room? So it has -- oh, a few, okay, but very few. So it has really penetrated, in just a short time, as the new game in town. I'm one of the people who work on it. And I'm relatively optimistic about it, but there's -- there are -- it's clear that at the individual project level it works and that there are two major unsettled questions. One is, is there really enough capacity to put large -- the CO2 of large numbers of plants below ground? And the IPCC has just proclaimed that, yes, there is a century's worth of storage with high probability. And the second is, are we sure it will stay down if we put it down? Are there cracks below ground that will bring it to the surface and so on, where also people are quite optimistic, but where experience still lies ahead.
The picture I showed you before I've blown up here to tell you just a little bit about carbon dioxide capture and storage. That picture is of a US Department of Energy demonstration project built in the late 1990s in Indiana, Wabash, Indiana, which is a plant which gasifies coal. And sends that gas to a combined -- a gas turbine and then to a steam turbine, so combined cycle power. It isn't a carbon capture and storage plant, but that first step of gasification is really the critical one to enable this technology to work. And with additional processing you can turn that gas into a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, before you've burned anything. And then you take the hydrogen to a turbine, so it's hydrogen power. Then you take the carbon dioxide off-site and somewhere else. So the step -- there's an additional chemical step and then a separation step and then the carbon dioxide disposal step. Those three additional steps will bring you from this Wabash plant to a carbon capture and storage plant.
Only two weeks ago British Petroleum announced that it will do a very similar project to this with carbon capture and storage in Southern California, in Long Beach, California. Not using coal, the petroleum coke, which is the bottom of the barrel at a refinery. That's a nasty fuel that has been burned and generally -- in rather -- it is not a very clean fuel. Instead of burning it the way they've been burning it they will -- they and presumably much of the rest of the oil industry and short time, will consider gasification and CO2 capture as part of its handling of that fuel. It's a similar scale to this project. It will look a lot like this, but it will be in Long Beach, California.
The carbon has to go somewhere. And of course this is a serious issue. And the scale -- there has been a -- the very first demonstration project was in Norway, in Norway starting in the mid-90s. And since then, and steadily, they've put one million tons of carbon dioxide below ground. That's about 300,000 tons of carbon, so you need more than 3000 projects of this sort to put a wedge of CO2 below ground. So this is a large amount of carbon dioxide movement and placement that is entailed, a very large industry of simply managing carbon dioxide. Which will only happen, for those of you in policy, if there's a price on putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Otherwise you can always vent it for less or almost always vent it for less. There are some places were carbon dioxide has value, especially something called enhanced oil recovery, but for the most part carbon policy is absolutely essential to bring this about.
And there is a project. Now I want to emphasize the developing world. In Algeria there is a carbon dioxide injection project run by Sonatrach, the Algerian company, along with Stat Oil and BP, that looks like this. That for about a year now, this is all very new stuff, has been putting carbon dioxide below ground that they had to separate for natural gas in order to put natural gas into the European grid through pipelines across the Mediterranean. And so that process, instead of venting the CO2, in order to learn about the technology, develop first mover advantage, these three oil companies are doing that at the present time.
I'm going to skip this one to keep going. If we get to decarbonization of fuels as opposed to decarbonization of electricity, the options are biofuels, something the Europeans and the Americans have gotten rather suddenly excited about expanding on a very large industrial scale to displace some of the gasoline in your gasoline tank or your diesel in your diesel truck engine, with something that grew from the ground. It could be sugarcane in Brazil, which is where this picture is from. It could be corn. It could be many other crops, switch grass. It takes a lot of land to produce the fuel to displace the vehicle fuel that we have at this time, hundreds of millions of hectares. It would be a major commitment of parts of planet Earth to go this way, but it does solve simultaneously some of the concerns about global oil, both the geological dimensions and the geopolitical dimensions and climate change. So it has a lot of appeal. The question is do we really want to develop a technology of this kind at the scale required relative to other things we could do with land? And we may all choose, yes, but we are really just beginning that dialogue.
In competition with that will be one of the things that is most scary from a climate perspective, which is that we'll make synthetic fuels from coal to deal with the limited hydrocarbons below ground. This will be available -- coal is relatively cheap. The technologies of making liquids from coal are there. They're not getting much discussion right now, but it's growing. The governor of Montana in the United States, Mr. Schweitzer, says he wants to start doing it. People went to Mr. Schweitzer very early on then and said, â€œPlease acknowledge the importance of putting carbon dioxide below ground as part of this project.â€ Let me put it to you this way, a mile of driving or a kilometer of driving with a gasoline that came from crude oil is going to put about half as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as if that gasoline -- compared to having that gasoline come from coal. It is that carbon wasteful.
That second amount of carbon dioxide is however being emitted at the plant, which is turning coal into synthetic fuel. So it's there to be captured, and so you could break even relative to crude oil if you did capture it. And as I understand that the governor of Montana is saying, okay, we can do that. We'll make that part of the package. And that's -- I'm calling for kind of a covenant among the engineers of this world not to go down the coal to liquids route without a commitment to carbon dioxide capture and storage. And of course policymakers could make a great deal of difference in making that happen.
So I invite you to play a game where you imagine two worlds in 2055 with the same pair of size skyscrapers. One of them emitting 14 billion tons of carbon per year and the other seven, anyway you like. I made myself do it once a while back and I say you can play too. The goal is to decarbonize the future economy. And what is appealing about stabilization wedges? They do not concede that doubling is inevitable. So the politicians who really didn't want to see that happen said, okay, I need to learn more. And it shortens the time frame to 50 years from 100. Business and government horizons are actually, particularly business horizons, 50 years out is not an impossible thing to get a conversation about.
Some of you know that much of the literature on climate change has had a hundred year focus, in which case most people start thinking about well this is a job for 2060 and 2070 and I can pay attention to something else. We're emphasizing that if you want to beat doubling it's a problem for today. It decomposes a heroic challenge into a limited set of monumental tasks. It establishes a unit of action that permits quantitative discussion of costs, pace and risk. And a unit of action that facilitates quantitative comparison and trade off. It creates a dialogue. One of our goals was to get people into the same room who don't enjoy each other, who come at it with favored technologies and say can we work together to get this problem solved? None of us can do it alone.
So let me go on a small tangent to address the subject of this meeting. And these slides -- I've just -- are entirely new. It's the first talk I've shown them to. But I started asking the question what kind of climate impact does basic human needs -- meeting basic human needs have? Assuming that we use fossil fuels to address basic human needs. And identified two of those as the energy component of basic human needs; the electricity with unclean cooking fuels. Maybe there's a third, but those to seem to be the dominant ones. And I say this is clearly political and not technical. Power can be brought to all villages. There are countries which have done so. An indoor air quality catastrophe, I don't think that's too weak a word related to cooking fuels in rural and urban areas, so much public health damage from indoor cooking with low quality fuels. And they can be solved with modern fuels. Modern fuels seem to be basically gases and liquids, typically gases in canisters.
And I say the diesel fuel for village scale engines and the LPG, the propane essentially, and the Dimethyl ether for fuel, for clean cooking fuels, both of which can be in these canisters under compression that are being used all over the world today. They can be produced from biomass, from natural gas, from crude oil, from coal. Largely they're going to be produced from fossil fuels. Let's not be frightened of meeting basic human needs with fossil fuels. Use the right ones, use in the right place.
The following four slides explain that meeting these needs for all humanity has a negligible effect on global carbon emissions. If that's the cheapest way to do it and gets it done first, it's not the carbon problem that is the basic human needs problem. They almost don't overlap. For example, and these numbers, I realize, are ones that you know better than I. They are numbers that I've been given and I asked around, are that 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity. And 2.6 have no access to modern cooking fuels. A billion difference because the urban families are still using poor -- most of the extra billion are urban poor who have electricity but no modern cooking fuel. Now again, I wish there were books on this that really told you these numbers in this considerable detail and how good the estimates were and where they were better and where they were worse. But these are the numbers people tend to use.
Then there's the need to estimate sufficiency. And I took 50 watts per capita, which is -- I now understand, I think I -- is a higher number than most of you are likely to use. That of course is 36 kilowatt hours per capita per month, 400 kilowatt hours per capita per year, so maybe 1800 kilowatt hours per capita for a family per year. Somebody was telling me that's too big. So I may need to drop this number, but maybe we should agree that that would be a nicer number than the number the bank tends to use.
Cooking fuels, people tell me that the families in many of the developing -- who use these propane canisters, use a propane canister per month. And from that comes the need for 35 kilograms of propane per capita per year. Just turn that into carbon units by multiplication. And there's one more number you need to do to go to carbon and that's how carbon intensive is the electricity? Well if it's wind electricity it's zero. But take the world average, let's say some of this gets done one way and some the other, that's 160 kilograms of carbon for a kilowatt hour, carbon, not carbon dioxide. That adds up to 2/10 of a wedge. Now let's try -- well, if we would do it instantly or 50 years from now.
Let's think about it a slightly different way. Let's think about doing the job now, accelerated access I call that, so that by 2030 it's finished. Everybody has electricity. And then we rest on our laurels. And it goes flat. That's the blue pair of arrows. Or, business as usual, we wait 25 years. We just don't get it done for -- we don't start for 25 years reducing the numbers. All the while the number of people in the world, of course as you know, is growing. So we have a rectangle -- a parallelogram there. And that has a certain amount of carbon in it. Same thing for cooking. Accelerated access versus business as usual. So it's a difference that we're going to look at.
And then let's lay the extra carbon emitted onto my triangle. And there it is, it goes up by 2/10 at the highest, 25 years from now, when we've got the whole job done on the one hand and haven't started it yet and in between its lower than that. And that isn't very much. It really isn't very much. So it is certainly not the case, and I've heard it so many times, especially from Americans in the energy industries who look at the developing world and it's a great big fuzz. And they say, well, we've got all these poor people and when they get carbon we will have a carbon problem. They've conflated development and basic human needs. And that's understandable given how muddled the conversation is generally. All of you can improve this situation, but there's a muddle about developing countries development on the one hand and meeting basic human needs at the very poor on the other. I don't think it was clear this morning in the first hour, if somebody came in from nowhere, to what the distinction was. I think you're getting it -- you've got to be harder on yourselves to help the public understand this distinction.
More generally, what's important to distinguish problems of poverty and problems of modernity. Maybe this helps some of you. It helped me to write this down. The problems of poverty are largely matters of political will. The most solvent governments are sufficiently motivated to give priority to equity in public health. Problems of modernity are the problems of low cost hydrocarbons, running out of low-cost oil if you like, and the buildup of carbon dioxide. They are really hard. They take more than political will. No country can solve such problems on its own. There's really no country that demonstrates what you need to do at the present time. But there is an immense amount that every country needs to do and can do. And the problems are nearly overlapping -- nearly not overlapping, scarcely overlapping.
Parting thoughts. I'm going to skip this because -- I'm going to say simply a terribly important argument that has to be joined is that it is time to mitigate carbon now. That means middle class consumption. It is city building. It is power plant construction. It is factories. It is not the basic human needs there we're talking about when we talk about carbon dioxide mitigation. Not letting the developing country's carbon emissions go up any more than letting the carbon dioxide emissions of Europe or the United States or Japan go up. There is this argument coming from the European greens in particular, and less so now than a few years ago, that developing countries should not be burdened with carbon mitigation until significant steps have been taken in industrialized countries. With such friends, who needs enemies?
Much of the world's construction of long lived carbon dioxide is in developing countries. Long live capital stock. That's what I want you to focus on. Buildings, power plants, power plants will be around for 60 years, buildings for 100. Unless energy efficiency and carbon efficiency are incorporated into new buildings and power plants now, wherever they are built, these facilities will become a liability when a price is later put on carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, call for leapfrogging, all of us, the introduction of advanced technologies in developing countries first. Or at least no later than in industrialized countries. Demonstration cities that deal with the air conditioning issue of the tropical cities that are growing with completely innovative methods of building design for example. The laying out of new cities in a sensible fashion. The world learns faster, reducing everyone's costs. Leapfrogging, which is a word I hope all of you know, is a path to globally coordinated mitigation. And there's a banking problem for sure, to compensate those who move first, but it's a separate problem from deciding that you need to do it.
I think there is political content to these wedges. I'm talking to a group of people who know how to think about this better than I do. It's, again, getting people who don't like each other into the same room. And they will agree, I think, that it is already time to act. It is too soon to pick winners. These are the things that they agree upon, even though they disagree about so much. Subsidy at early stages is often desirable, but at later stages markets help to choose the best wedges. The best wedges for one country may not be the best for another. And the environmental and social costs of scale up need attention. The last point, which is that one or two windmills is not the same as hundreds of thousands of them. One or two bio plant -- bio fuel plantations is not the same as hundreds of them. That they have cumulative impacts that are separate from the ones you see one at a time. We have to call that out and pay attention to that issue.
But those are things people agree upon. So there is a potential for early action that is based on dividing the job. And I must say, relative to where the Kyoto structure has been developed, which is a real bipolar world. It's a world where everybody truly has a responsibility. Note for example that national subsidies elicited most of the technologies that I'm allowed to put on the list for available wedges because they are commercialized. They have been commercialized, typically, in one or two countries, typically not because of climate, typically 10 or 20 years ago, usually because of energy security. Nations did experiments and do experiments and then the world learns from those national experiments. So we need to encourage that.
The United States for example has done most of the enhanced oil recovery using carbon dioxide because of a subsidy of domestic oil production in the 1980s, which led to a very large amount of experience with piping carbon dioxide from one place to the next hundreds of miles. And putting it below ground and seeing where it was below ground and handling it. There was a lot of learning. And Norway has joined in that and other countries now of course. But in point of fact this was the US who demonstrated this technology for reasons having nothing to do with climate, but that is really a value to the world.
In wind most of that new learning has been in Europe, which subsidized a lot of wind for a variety of reasons, not only climate. And we are the beneficiaries. We know how to make wind a lot more cheaply than before all of that happened. Nuclear power, various countries subsidized the early stages of nuclear power. They're still subsidizing of course, but there's been a great deal of learning. The Chinese make hydrogen from coal rather than from natural gas as most of the rest of the world does. They use that hydrogen for nitrogen fertilizer, ammonia fertilizer. A lot of the early understanding of coal gasification comes from the Chinese experience. Biofuels in Brazil is of course terribly well known. Wood waste in Sweden has been a pioneering area and in the coal to syn fuels world, because of apartheid rules, it is in the case that South Africa is the country that has pushed coal to syn fuels the furthest. There are others that you can add, but the message is that countries experiment and the world benefits. And that we have to think about that when we think about a World Bank portfolio for example.
So just join me in thinking about what we -- locate one's self in 2055 and say we've gotten the job done. I'm nearly finished. A world with the same total of CO2 emissions in 2055 is today. Have we all had lots of struggle and pain and has it all been uphill? Well not entirely. It would be a world where institutions of carbon management have reliably communicated the price of carbon, something we would all like to see. If there are wedges of nuclear power, strong international enforcement mechanisms to control nuclear proliferation will have been put in place. I can't imagine nuclear power expanding in a world that's on the verge of nuclear war in five or six places. We will have somehow come to terms with that duality. If wedges of carbon dioxide capture and storage are achieved, there will have been widespread permitting of geological storage, which means that the case that you can do it safely will have been made. And that would be -- if that's -- it won't have been made if it isn't a sensible case. So we would presumably be sitting down looking at that and some satisfaction.
If wedges of renewable energy and enhanced storage in forest and soils are achieved there would've been a lot of rural development and extensive land reclamation associated with all of that. There would be a planetary consciousness. We won't get there without thinking that we're on a planet together, as the woman from Norway expressed so eloquently. And that is not an unhappy prospect. Can we do it? People are becoming increasingly anxious about our limited understanding of the experiments we are performing on the only earth we have and are learning that there are ways to live more cautiously. We should anticipate a discontinuity. What has seemed too hard to do, what has seemed too hard, becomes what simply must be done. Precedents include abolishing child labor, addressing the needs of the disabled and mitigating air pollution. They all looked too hard. And we went through this period of deciding that what seemed too hard becomes simply what must be done.
Let me reiterate my two messages for the World Bank audience that are really for you. Mitigating basic human needs has a negligible impact on the climate problem and mitigation must begin now in developing countries. Thank you.
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