"In terms of resolving these two problems of peak fossil fuels and climate change... mitigation policies for peak oil, peak coal and peak gas should be done in tandem with mitigation policies for climate change. And I think there's no reason that that shouldn't happen. In fact it makes the most sense to me." NASA research scientist Dr. Pushker Kharecha speaks with David Room about "Implications of 'peak oil' for atmospheric CO2 and climate," a paper Kharecha co-wrote with one of the world's foremost climate scientists, Dr. James Hansen. The paper, which has been submitted for peer-reviewed publication in a scientific journal, is one of few that consider both climate instability and oil depletion.
Dr. Pushker Kharecha is a research scientist with NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the Columbia University Earth Institute. Dr. Kharecha joined GISS after earning a dual PhD in Earth science and astrobiology from Pennsylvania State University in 2005. In the interest of conducting research that has direct relevance to environmental policy, Dr. Kharecha shifted his focus to the field of climate science. His paper, "Implications of 'peak oil' for atmospheric CO2 and climate," co-written with GISS Director Dr. James Hansen, is available at http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov. Examining the impact of a range of peak oil scenarios on CO2 emissions, Kharecha and Hansen conclude that peaking of global oil production could have a major effect on 21st-century climate change, depending on the timing and magnitude of the peak, and subsequent energy choices. They argue that a fair yet effective price on carbon emissions should be implemented in order to move energy choices in a direction that averts dangerous climate change. They also outline several key policy recommendations regarding global use of coal and unconventional fossil fuels -- specifically, that coal CO2 emissions (not necessarily coal use) should be phased out globally within the next few decades, and that unconventional fossil fuels such as methane hydrates, tar sands, and shale oil should not be widely used unless their emissions are also captured and sequestered.