The UT Energy Symposi um welcomes Justin Ritchie, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability to give a talk titled Revisiting business-as-usual: Why our worst-case climate scenarios aren't as bad as we thought and 2˚ is more readily achievable.
Justin Ritchie is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. His work on energy and climate economics has been published in an array of peer-reviewed journals that include Environmental Research Letters, Energy, Energy Economics, and Ecological Economics. This analysis has also sparked coverage in Bloomberg, New York Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Grist, and beyond.
Abstract: Transforming global energy production and consumption to limit impacts of future greenhouse gases on the Earth’s climate seems like a Herculean challenge because fossil fuels are so dominant. Energy infrastructure takes many years to turn over, therefore planning a low carbon transition necessitates an outlook to 2050 and beyond. Accordingly, much of today’s debate about climate change relies on long-term scenarios of transformations in energy technology, supply, and demand compatible with reducing carbon emissions at a pace that limits future warming to 2˚ or less, and these are based on initial business-as-usual reference cases that depict catastrophic climate change in the absence of stringent policies.
This talk will review critical outstanding questions for the energy technology pathways used to frame and assess decisions consistent with climate policy goals. To do so, we’ll start by considering the global energy scenarios presented in the latest IPCC assessment to inform science and policy. A key feature of the IPCC business-as-usual scenarios is the assumption that oil and gas resources will face exhaustion by mid-21 st century, and after this point, the world must rely on coal to replace them. This initial reference point leads to projections of significant costs for deploying lower carbon technologies. We will discuss how this biases climate policy scenarios, and the reasons this perspective needs revision moving forward. The implication is that achieving decarbonization consistent with a 2°C policy target will likely be less difficult than generally assessed and that transition to a lower carbon economy will be less costly than feared.
The UT Energy Symposium meets every Thursday during the long semesters. Come early to attend a networking session before the talk.