The Wedge Game by Susan Savion


On Saturday, November 12, I traveled to Troy, N.Y., to participate in a Sustainability Workshop at RPI for the Stabilization Wedges Game.   It was led by Dr. Roberta Holinski, Information Officer at the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) at Princeton University led the workshop with the objective to broaden and deepen the understanding of existing climate mitigation challenges.  Limited to 50 participants, the attendees included scientists, environmental company CEO’s, and UU Green Sanctuary chairs from areas in and near the Capitol District. There were also several politicians in attendance.  Congressman Paul Tonka, current House of Representative Energy Chair, was most impressive in his closing statements.  He advocated for a comprehensive energy plan, noting the research in this field creates JOBS.  His mantra is “Cut where you can so you can invest where you must.”  And Green Energy is a must!

Existing strategies that can be employed immediately in order to avoid a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels were examined.  Participants worked in teams to thoughtfully discuss and select viable approaches to solving the climate crisis.  Each team worked to incorporate the challenges of different social, economic and political needs.  This game has been featured in the recent PBS Nova Episode “Power Surge.”

The Earth’s atmosphere currently contains about 800 billion tons of carbon as C02, and combustion of fossil fuels currently adds about 8 billion tons of carbon every year.  The “stabilization wedges” concept is a simple tool for conveying the emissions cuts that can be made to avoid dramatic climate change.  We can consider a future in which emissions would double by 2050 versus keeping emissions at current levels.  The emissions-doubling path is predicted to lead to significant global warming by the end of this century.  This warming is expected to be accompanied by decreased crop yields, increased threats to human health, and more frequent extreme weather events.  The planet could also face rising sea-level from melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Greenland glaciers and destabilization of the ocean’s thermohaline circulation that helps redistribute the planet’s heat and warm Western Europe.
 
We chose stabilization wedges (ways to cut carbon) from a choice of 15, grouped into four categories:  Efficiency and Conservation, Fossil-fuel Strategies, Nuclear Energy (in a class by itself—almost no one choice nuclear as one of their 8 wedges), and Renewables and Biostorage (Wind Electricity, Solar, Wind Hydrogen, Biofuels, Forest Storage and Soil Storage.)  The wedge strategies were further classified by sectors:  Electrical Production, Heating and Direct Fuel Use, Transportation, and Biostorage.

To find out more information on the Wedge Stabilization Game, visit:  http://cmi.princeton.edu/wedges/game.php, http://cmi.princeton.edu/news/pacala.energy.php, and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/power-surge.html.