What would it take to reduce CO2 levels to 350 ppm?

by Marlo Lewis on April 2, 2009

in Blog

“Climate 350″–for 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere–is fast becoming the new mantra of Gorethodox believers in climate doom and coercive energy rationing. Columbia University will host a conference on the topic next month, featuring NASA scientist James Hansen as the keynote speaker.

But as Newsweekreporter Sharon Begley points out, just to limit atmospheric concentrations to 450 ppm, nations would have to build 10,000 new nuclear power plants–one every other day from now until 2050–plus a mind boggling 1 million solar roof top panels per day from now until 2050. Even then, 450 ppm is attainable only if global energy efficiency improves by a whopping 500%, population grows only to 9 billion (instead of 10 billion or 11 billion), and global GDP grows at an anemic (near recession) rate of 1.6% per year.

What would it take to lower CO2 concentrations to 350 ppm? According to Begley’s source, Cal Tech chemist Nathan Lewis, global CO2 emissions would have to drop to zero by 2050.

Absent revolutionary changes in energy production, distribution, conversion, and storage–Nobel-caliber breakthroughs that nobody can plan or predict–lowering CO2 emissions to 350 ppm is impossible without draconian cutbacks in population, economic output, or both. Whether they realize it or not, the Climate 350 Club is asking us to go back to the caves.

For additional discussion, see my post on Masterresource.org.

Ben April 3, 2009 at 2:52 am

Finally, someone did the math and is presenting it in a clear method. I'm tired of the people who think that CO2 growth can be stopped by driving a hybrid. Simple numbers presented in an easy-to-understand fashion do wonders.

However, I would like to see your work. When you say 1 million solar panels per day, how big of a panel do you mean? If you are meaning individual panels, 400 million a year isn't that unreasonable if it is turned from a cottage industry to a full-scale industry. >100 million PCs are sold annually. However, if you mean a decent size array, then that many quickly becomes ludicrous.

Bill Marsh April 3, 2009 at 3:22 am


I think he means a full solar array capable of supplying most of the electrical needs of the home (not that that, in itself is possible).

There are a number of issues with this, 1) I'd wager there are not 400 million homes in a climactic zone that would gain any benefit from installation of a solar array (there may be that many but certainly not a whole lot more). Most of the time they would be pulling power from the grid, 2) @ roughly 20K/per home, it will cost 8 Trillion dollars a year to install 400 million solar arrays, 3) Current worldwide production capacity is infinitesimally smaller than that needed to support a scheme like this and it would take decades to ramp up the production.

We 'could' use 'home sized wind generators (I've seen some advertised) but again, to be effective you'd need roughly 10-15/home and they have to be elevated to at least 200 feet to gain a steadier supply of wind.

Interesting numbers in the article tho.

Point of no return April 6, 2009 at 6:34 pm

The US is trying to bandage a growing problem. But credit must be given, they are trying.

"Is anyone asking what happens if we do not succeed?!"

I own a Green Energy Retrofit business (Home Energy Loss Professionals or H.E.L.P.)and I try to convince customers that they should make their homes energy efficient due to Global Warming, not just comfort or high bills.


Maybe a 120- 130 deg summer will bring his home, but what then. It is hard for our company to gear up due to the credit crunch, and we have A-1 ratings. And $5 billion in Green Stimulus, but none for rebuilding companies to do the retrofits.

Unless we swing the Pendulum totally to Green… we will not make it… in many of our life-times, and definitively not in our Grand-Kids.

Maybe the next "Green Party" political group @ election times will HELP. But can we afford to wait.

I have not given up, but we need a totally new urgency.

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