Ottmar Edenhofer & Brigitte Knopf on the Cost of Lowering Greenhouse Gases

New Hot Paper Commentary, January 2012

Ottmar Edenhofer & Brigitte Knopf

Article: The Economics of Low Stabilization: Model Comparison of Mitigation Strategies and Costs

Authors: Edenhofer, O;Knopf, B;Barker, T;Baumstark, L;Bellevrat, E;Chateau, B;Criqui, P;Isaac, M;Kitous, A;Kypreos, S;Leimbach, M;Lessmann, K;Magne, B;Scrieciu, S;Turton, H;van Vuuren, DP
Journal: ENERGY J, 31: 11-48 Sp. Iss. 1 JAN 2010
* Potsdam Inst Climate Impact Res PIK, POB 601203, D-14412 Potsdam, Germany.
* Potsdam Inst Climate Impact Res PIK, D-14412 Potsdam, Germany.
(Addresses have been truncated)

Ottmar Edenhofer & Brigitte Knopf talk with and answer a few questions about this month's New Hot Paper in the field of Economics & Business.

SW: Why do you think your paper is highly cited? Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

The paper shows different transformation pathways of the global energy system to achieve climate change mitigation. It provides a comprehensive synthesis of a model-based approach to assess the costs and the technologies for achieving the global 2°C objective.

SW: Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

In order to underpin political commitment of stakeholders and decision-makers to tackle the 2°C target, it needs to be shown that the goal is not only technically feasible but also economically viable. In our paper, we explore the feasibility of the 2°C target in terms of technologies and economic costs for three different CO2 concentration pathways that have different probabilities to achieve the 2°C target. To obtain a robust picture of mitigation costs and technological options, the analysis is based on a model comparison with five state-of-the-art energy-environment-economy models.

Brigitte Knopf
Brigitte Knopf

In summary, the models illustrate techno-economic scenarios in which a low stabilization target of 400ppm CO2-eq for atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations can be achieved at moderate cost. The models provide a number of technology pathways that have a high likelihood of achieving the 2°C target.

As a caveat, substantial dependence on particular technologies is observed in such a low stabilization scenario as compared to a less ambitious target of 550ppm that is more robust against the failure of particular technologies. Bioenergy use in combination with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) turns out to be an extremely important technology for ambitious mitigation.

SW: How did you become involved in this research, and how would you describe the particular challenges, setbacks, and successes that you've encountered along the way?

This research was made possible with funds of the EU within the EU Project ADAM (Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies). Five European modeling teams participated in the model comparison.

The main success was the production of a Special Issue in the Energy Journal that emphasizes the joint effort of the project team. The mentioned paper is the synthesis paper of the model comparison. Another success is that the scenarios that were produced in this project have now been taken up in the IPCC Special Report on Renewables (SRREN).

SW: Where do you see your research leading in the future?

We are continuing with the work on model comparisons within EU research projects as well as under the roof of the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum (EMF) where we set up, e.g., a model comparison that will identify and explore mitigation pathways for the EU until 2050 and their associated costs under different technology options.

SW: Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?

Definitely yes. Our study drew a lot of attention in the policy debate within the EU concerning the feasibility of the 2°C target. Moreover, the scenarios that were produced in the study will be included in the next IPCC Assessment Report AR5 to explore different mitigation pathways. Moreover, our study showed that bioenergy use in combination with CCS is an important mitigation option and has also influenced and will further influence the debate about a sustainable bioenergy use and the conflicts with food production.End

Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer
Head of Department Sustainable Solutions at PIK
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
Research Domain III (Sustainable Solutions)
Potsdam, Germany

Dr. Brigitte Knopf
Senior Researcher
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
Research Domain III (Sustainable Solutions)
Potsdam, Germany



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