Stabilization Wedges

The “Stabilization Wedges” concept of co-Directors Steve Pacala and Rob Socolow has reached a wide variety of audiences over the past year. A “stabilization wedge” represents a strategy that grows from no activity now to preventing 1 billion tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere per year in 2050. Pacala and Socolow have identified 15 strategies in the areas of energy efficiency, fuel switching, renewable energy, nuclear energy, and natural sinks that have the capacity to reduce carbon emissions by 1 “wedge” in the next 50 years. They estimate that, with considerable uncertainty, approximately seven wedges represent the difference between a 2050 future without carbon policy (14 GtC/y) and one with policy designed to achieve stabilization below doubling (7 GtC/y, the same emission rate as at present).

Figure 10. The Stabilization Wedges gameboard – players choose seven wedges to build a “stabilization triangle” that will keep emissions flat through the year 2050.

The wedges concept was first outlined in the August 13 edition of Science, and elaborations appeared in John Browne’s article in the July-August Foreign Affairs, in Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies, in Environment, and in a presentation at the Tenth Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The original analysis was at the global level, but variants are being developed by others that describe stabilization wedges at the national level.

In addition to being profiled in presentations and papers, the wedge concept is being spread via the “Wedge Game” developed for last year’s annual meeting. In November, CMI’s Information Officer Roberta Hotinski worked with Sarah Wade of AJW, Inc. to organize a wedge workshop at the World Resources Institute in Washington, DC. The workshop involved representatives from NGO’s, government agencies, and industry, and generated several requests for future workshops. The wedges concept may also be adapted for use in a curriculum being developed for DOE by the Keystone Group. Game materials and background on the wedges will also shortly be added to the CMI Website for wider dissemination to the general public.