Scientist contributes to alarmism

by William Yeatman on August 31, 2004

in Science

Princeton University scientist Robert Socolow recently co-authored a paper (Pacala, S., Socolow, R., Stabilization wedges: solving the climate problem for the next 50 years with current technologies, Science, 305, 968-972) which argues that existing technologies are sufficient to significantly reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions if widely adopted.  The paper significantly did not consider the costs of adopting these existing technologies.

 In a story based on the article, Dr. Socolow is reported as telling the Washington Post (Aug. 23), If governments fail to actthe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will triple in 50 years.  Keeping it below a doubling is a heroic task, he said.

 The Greening Earth Society pointed out the hyperbole involved in this statement (World Climate Alert, Aug. 25):

 Before people began burning fossil fuels to release the energy that powers life as we know it, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was about 280 parts per million. Its now about 375 ppm an increase of about 34 percent. Twenty-five years ago the concentration was around 330 ppm, or 18 percent above background.  In other words, Socolow is telling Eilperin (apparently with a straight face) that the 16 percent rise in the last twenty-five years will morph into a 300 percent rise in the next fifty if governments fail to act.  This is nonsensical!  To triple the 280 ppm background by 2053, the atmospheres CO2 concentration must increase 1.65 percent per year.

 According to data compiled by the U. S. Energy Information Administration, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per capita has been dropping worldwide since the 1980s and population (all those capita) isnt increasing at nearly the rate predicted twenty-five years ago.  In 1980, the United Nations predicted a global population of 15 billion by 2050. Their most recent estimate is nine billion. Theyve reduced their population prediction 40 percent.  As companies have competed to produce and deploy more efficient technologies (principally in developed countries), the rate of increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration has remained much smaller than the required 1.65 percent per year.  In fact, it has changed very little. Over the period for which we have accurate records (1958 to present), the increase has fluctuated between 0.4% per year and 0.45%.

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