UN Climate Report: Carbon removal is now ‘essential’

Reducing emissions that would require a rapid transition to new technologies as well as a sharp reduction in energy demand. This will require unprecedented changes in human behavior and efficiency gains, all of which will be “quite difficult to implement in the real world,” says Zeke Hausvater, a member of the previous working group on the latest UN climate report and head of climate research at Stripe.

Softening the target to 2°C would essentially give an extra decade to halve climate pollution to 29 billion tons of emissions by 2040.

The speed and scale of reductions required in both cases is simply unrealistic, says Julio Friedmann, chief scientist at Carbon Direct, a research and investment company specializing in carbon removal. Nations will need to achieve “massive” levels of carbon removal, he said.

Significant Problems: The world was already radiating too much. We have not done enough to move towards cleaner ways of managing the economy. And we still don’t have affordable and affordable ways to repair certain industries and products, such as aviation, shipping, fertilizer, cement, and steel.

The promise of carbon removal is that it can give countries more time to transition to sustainable practices and balance current emissions from sources we don’t know how to replace.

But …

2. We will need to do a lot of this.

Preventing the planet from warming by 2 degrees Celsius, or moving the climate away from it, could require the release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The models that limited warming to 2°C were based on three main methods of removing carbon: planting trees, reforesting and applying similar land management practices, developing and implementing carbon-sinking machines, and using plants to produce energy while capturing emissions that known as BECCS. Together they will need to remove up to 17 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 and 35 billion by 2100, according to the report.

3. We need a portfolio of carbon removal options

The report highlights that different approaches to carbon removal have very different benefits and challenges.

Nature-based approaches such as tree planting and reforestation, for example, are the most widely used today. But carbon can be released back into the atmosphere when plants die or are burned in a fire. Thus, these solutions are likely to have a shorter lifespan than other methods, such as geological storage, which keeps carbon underground.

The report notes that direct air capture can permanently remove and store carbon, but machines are currently limited in scale and expensive, and the technology consumes large amounts of energy and water.

The IPCC report models rely heavily on BECCS, which is a hybrid of natural and technological approaches, with some of the advantages of each. BECCS, however, requires a huge amount of land that could compete with the needs of food production, among other issues.

The report notes many other ways to capture carbon dioxide, including ocean-based approaches such as using minerals to increase the alkalinity of seawater. But they are mostly untested.

4. Scaling up will require funding and policy decisions

The authors of the climate panel stress that achieving high levels of carbon removal will require significant research and development to determine the most efficient methods, minimize environmental impact, and develop large real-world projects quickly.

“We need all hands on deck to explore a variety of options for both deep decarbonization and carbon removal,” wrote Frances Wang, program manager at the ClimateWorks Foundation, which funds carbon removal research, in response to the MIT Technology Review. investigation.

The biggest barrier to creating a major carbon removal industry is likely to be cost. Who will pay hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars to get rid of this amount of carbon dioxide year after year?

The report says that accelerating carbon removal research and development — and ensuring that businesses actually do it — will require “political commitment” from governments. This means adopting policies that mandate or incentivize carbon removal, as well as practices that achieve claimed climate benefits.

If history serves as a guide, then the gloomy conclusions of the new IPCC report will not radically change anything. The world’s annual emissions are about 6 billion tons more than they were at the time of the last major assessment in 2014. But more and more work is being done on carbon removal as the importance of its role in combating climate change becomes more apparent. .

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