Debate 27 - Demand: We are running out of atmosphere

Friday, January 6th, 2006 | Debates

The energy demand debate is about how much energy we can afford to use and what we can do to keep within the limits we set ourselves. While there is some dispute about how much CO2 the atmosphere can absorb, few doubt that there is an upper limit within the range 400-500 ppmv.

Demand (Photo courtesy: ESA)

Demand (Photo courtesy: ESA)

Now at 380 ppmv, if we take the lower figure it means we have only 5% of the atmosphere left and at current consumption we will fill this in 15 years. The higher figure gives us a longer time before we hit the buffers but should expect things to become dangerously non-linear before we reach the threshold.

Stringent cuts in fossil fuel consumption are needed — either by doing without or by using other forms of energy. With so much of CO2 coming from the built environment this sector has an opportunity to show how the built environment could function with the 60% or greater reductions in CO2 now being called for.

This debate is about asking whether the 60%+ cut is possible and affordable and, if so what steps this sector should take to demonstrate this by way of strengthening government’s hand in the next round of climate change negotiations.

The debate was chaired by Peter Guthrie, Professor Engineering, University of Cambridge.

Paper 1:

Colin Challen MP

Paper 2: Climate Change Frameworks for Policy and Action (PowerPoint)

Chris Beauman

Paper 3: Suppose market based instruments don’t work? (PowerPoint)

David Fisk, BP/RAEng Prof Engineering for Sustainable Development

Notes from debate

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