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Andlinger Center News

January 17, 2013

Carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced far more and far faster than previously thought if a global temperature rise is to be kept under 2 °C, according to a report in Environmental Research Letters. The researchers say that scaling up existing technology won’t be good enough to meet the goals. Instead, we need new technological breakthroughs.

A landmark scientific paper published in 2004 concluded that for the next 50 years, climate change could be controlled “simply by scaling up what we know how to do.” That paper, co-authored by Robert Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, broke the climate change problem into manageable “wedges,” suggesting 15 things that could be done—such as doubling the number of nuclear reactors, building a million wind turbines, or reversing tropical deforestation—each of which would reduce the rate of carbon dioxide emissions by a gigaton of carbon per year when fully deployed.