Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions

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Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions
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The world not only continues to build new coal-fired power plants, but built more new coal plants in the past decade than in any previous decade. Worldwide, an average of 89 gigawatts per year (GW yr–1) of new coal generating capacity was added between 2010 and 2012, 23 GW yr–1 more than in the 2000–2009 time period and 56 GW yr–1 more than in the 1990–1999 time period. Natural gas plants show a similar pattern. Assuming these plants operate for 40 years, the fossil-fuel burning plants built in 2012 will emit approximately 19 billion tons of CO2 (Gt CO2) over their lifetimes, versus 14 Gt CO2 actually emitted by all operating fossil fuel power plants in 2012. We find that total committed emissions related to the power sector are growing at a rate of about 4% per year, and reached 307 (with an estimated uncertainty of 192–439) Gt CO2 in 2012. These facts are not well known in the energy policy community, where annual emissions receive far more attention than future emissions related to new capital investments. This paper demonstrates the potential for 'commitment accounting' to inform public policy by quantifying future emissions implied by current investments.
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1 of the things that makes climate change an especially difficult problem is that for the average person or the average policymakers it lacks immediacy that 1 psychologists but climate change may ruin in the future but it's not likely to mess up the evening the fact that climate impacts are a threat in the long run will materialize slowly over
time makes it hard for us to get very excited to respond to them even if the
impacts turn out to be devastating the problem is in state to delay is at odds with another characteristic of climate change which is that it's a problem with huge inertia the better physical inertia temperatures would take a few years to catch up with all the this you to that we've been dumping into the atmosphere even if we were to stop today but more importantly it is a tremendous amount of social economic and political inertia we spent nearly 2 centuries and tens of trillions of dollars worldwide building up the largest network of infrastructure that's ever existed all to extract
process and deliver fossil fuels and
fossil energy consumers all this long-lived infrastructure represents an enormous investment that will be easy to walk away from the idea behind the new Papamichael other rob SoCal I've written is that it's possible to estimate future greenhouse gas emissions that are locked in by all its existing infrastructure what we call committed the new paper demonstrates the concept of this commitment counting by quantifying the C O 2 emissions that are expected to come from now existing power plants for example rather than tallying up C O 2 emissions from power plants in the year they come out of the plant smokestacks what's called annual emissions we instead assume a typical plant lifetime of 40 years and allocate the entire lifetime's worth of emissions of each power plant to the year the plant was built what we find is that currently existing power plants around the world unless they're retired earlier retrofitted with carbon capture and storage technology are expected to emit roughly 300 billion tons of C O 2 in the future now that's about 10 years worth of emissions at current rates and that's from existing power plants alone it's enough to put a big dent in the remaining budget of C 2 that we can still dumped into the atmosphere and have any reasonable chance of avoiding 2 degrees Celsius of warming relative to the industrial era but even more daunting than that large amount of committed emissions we found that the total committed emissions have grown by an average of 4 per
cent per year between 2000 and 2012 as we've build more coal-fired power plants in that period than in any previous 12 year period power plants in the United States Europe and India each represent roughly 10 per cent of the current committed emissions and the incredible expansion of coal power in China shows up as Chinese power plants represent about 42 per cent of the total global commitment power plants in Japan Indonesia Saudi Arabia and Iran also represent a substantial and growing share of the global commitment not to be clear committed
does not mean unavoidable there's nothing to stop us from shuttering and brand new power plant retrofitting it with carbon capture and storage technology but of course a decent cost associated with doing either of those things when something is built and operating there really is some amount of commitment so coming back to the issues of immediacy and inertia that began with our hope is that the sort of commitment accounting described and demonstrated in the new paper will be taken up by other analysts and used to evaluate the long run climate impacts of and capital investments in turn allowing policymakers to confront the distant implications of decisions that they're making today thanks for listening to get any questions about the paper or commitment accounting don't hesitate to e-mail