2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 253-5
Presentation Time: 2:35 PM


JONES, Glenn, Marine Science, Texas A&M University Galveston Campus, 1001 Texas Clipper Rd, Galveston, TX 77554 and WARNER, Kevin, Maine Biology, Texas A&M University Galveston Campus, 1001 Texas Clipper Rd, Galveston, TX 77554, jonesg@tamug.edu

Over 86% of the 546 EJ of energy consumed currently by the world’s 7.2 billion population is derived from non-renewable fossil fuels, resulting in the annual emission of 36 gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent (GtCO2). IPCC estimates that between 1870 and 2010, 1,890 GtCO2 were emitted globally, and suggest that in order to avoid negative climate effects associated with >2oC warming, this number should not exceed 2,900 GtCO2. Yet, the world of 2100 will demand twice as much energy as currently produced, largely resulting from: 1) world population increasing to 11 billion by 2100; 2) bringing the one-fifth of the world’s population currently living without access to electricity onto the energy grid, as proposed by the World Bank and United Nation’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative; and 3) expansion of energy use to foster continued economic development in the low per capita energy use countries , especially South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Here we examine the world’s known non-renewable energy reserves and quantify the changes in the global energy mix necessary to address the 21st century population, economic expansion, and climate change issues under two energy-use scenarios. In order to maintain <2oC warming we find that renewable energy (9% today) must comprise 50% of total energy use by 2028 and 94% by 2100. Alternatively, if availability of the non-renewable fuels is the constraint, we find that renewable energy must expand to comprise 50% of total energy use by 2054 and 87% by 2100. In either scenario, renewable energy availability must expand dramatically by the end of the 21st century. However, under the <2oC scenario renewable energy will need to expand by 36-fold in the next 13 years (2015 to 2028), a rate and magnitude that is unprecedented in the history of development and expansion of any energy source. Due to ongoing economic and political debates, we see the <2oC mitigation scenario as untenable. Rather, we see cumulative carbon emissions approaching 4,700 GtCO2 by 2100. Given the required rate and magnitude of the transition to renewable energy to meet the <2˚C warming goal, focus should instead be placed on implementing climate adaptation measures and expanding renewable energy availability as quickly as possible in order to limit warming to 2.5-3˚C.