Emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases can be reduced significantly using existing technologies, but stabilizing concentrations will require a technological revolution—a “revolution” because it will require fundamental change, achieved within a relatively short period of time. Inspiration for a climate–technology revolution is often drawn from the Apollo space program or the Manhattan Project, but averting dangerous climate change cannot be “solved” by a single new technology, deployed by a single government. The technological changes needed to address climate change fundamentally will have to be pervasive; they will have to involve markets; and they will have to be global in scope. My focus in this paper is not on the moderate emission reductions that can be achieved using existing technologies, but on the breakthrough technologies that are needed to reduce emissions dramatically. The challenges are formidable. Indeed, it is possible that the revolution needed to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases will fail. Should the climate change abruptly, the incentive to “engineer” the climate will be strong. There will be a climate–technology revolution, but its nature will depend on the institutions we develop to address the challenge we face.
The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.