This wonderful graphic created by Roger Pielke, Jr. shows just how steep the curve needs to be to achieve full decarbonization. If we really have any hope of getting from where we are to where we need to be by 2050, which is in about 12,000 days, we need to reduce fossil fuel use by one million tonnes of burned oil (or its equivalents in coal and gas) every day and replace it with a comparable amount of clean energy generation. This would take the addition of one new 1.5 GigaWatt nuclear power plant, 1,500 2-MegaWatt Wind turbines, or an extra 14 million 295 Watt solar panels every day.
Building up all three energy sources, along with hydro and geothermal, as fast as we can may still not be fast enough to achieve this goal. Why would we ever choose to increase our risk of failure by eliminating one of our clean energy options?
Clean Energy Pro’s and Con’s
All types of clean energy have their unique pro’s and con’s. Jesse Jenkins, MIT Ph.D. candidate and energy researcher, was asked to encapsulate what nuclear and renewables each have going for and against them. Here’s what he highlighted.
Dropbox Reference: A critical review of global decarbonization scenarios: what do they tell us about feasibility?, by Peter J. Loftus, Armond M. Cohen, Jane C. S. Long and Jesse D. Jenkins, 2014 (Proper citation: WIREs Clim Change 2014. doi: 10.1002/wcc.324)