To stabilize climate change and limit global warming to any given level (e.g. 1.5°C or 2°C) net emissions eventually need to be reduced to zero. The cumulative amount of carbon emissions humanity will have emitted by the time net emissions reach zero will decide peak warming (carbon budgets). While we have not yet consumed the carbon budgets for 1.5°C or 2°C warming, much of the remaining budget is already locked-in by existing capital stock (especially electricity generation infrastructure) that will emit for many years to come.

In my last talk I introduced the ‘decarbonization identity’, which describes properties of all levers policy makers can pull to make sure future emissions from infrastructure stay within the defined budget. Namely these are: (1) committed emissions from already existing capital stock [E]; (2) future commitments by decisions and investments yet to be made [N]; (3) magnitude and implications of a stranding of existing (and future) capital stock [S]; and (4) possibility to create additional carbon budget (atmospheric space [A]).

In this week’s talk I want to further zoom in on the ‘decarbonization identity’ and analyze what the cost efficient levels of stranding (S) and creating new atmospheric space (A) are and how these levels differ under different scenarios of newly built fossil generation capacity and for different global warming goals. I will demonstrate how existing data about carbon budgets and existing committed cumulative carbon emissions as well as IPCC scenarios can be used to generate ‘environmental Engels curves’ for each IPCC integrated assessment model (IAM). These curves show the cost efficient pathways for every combination of newly built energy infrastructure and global warming targets and can provide insights and guidance for future environmental policies.

While I just started with my research on this I still hope to get valuable feedback on the current status of my research and my research plans.