, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 331-349

Potential Scale-Related Problems in Estimating the Costs of CO2 Mitigation Policies

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Abstract

The scale-related problem addressed here relates to a difficulty in substituting away from fossil fuels as part of a policy designed to mitigate climate change. The replacement of fossil fuels by renewable forms of energy is a widely advocated means of reducing the build-up greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, the substitution, on a large-scale, of renewable, non-fossil fuel energy sources for fossil fuels requires using vast amounts of land to produce energy. It is shown that, with the exception of nuclear energy, almost all non-fossil fuel energy sources are highly land using, or land-intensive. In particular, the widespread substitution of renewables such as biomasses, wind, solar, and hydro for fossil fuels would require adapting large amounts of land to energy production, land which may have good alternative uses. Thus, the economic feasibility of producing, globally, relatively small amounts of renewable energies is not a good indicator of the feasibility of producing them on a large scale. This implies that substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels requires the discovery and development of new non-land intensive energy technologies.