To reduce emissions that would quickly require a dangerous transition to new technology as well as drastically reduce energy demand. It will lead to unprecedented human behavior changes and improvements in efficiency, all of which will be “totally challenging to accomplish in the real world,” says Zack Hausfader, a former working group contributor to the UN Climate Report and a strip on climate research lead.
Reducing the target to 2C would basically provide an additional decade by 2040 to prevent 29 billion tons of emissions, climate pollution.
Julio Friedman, chief scientist at Carbon Direct, a research and investment firm focused on carbon removal, says the speed and scale of cuts required in both cases is unrealistic. Nations will need to do “enormous” levels of carbon removal, he says.
Essential Problems: The world has already emitted a lot. We haven’t done enough to divert our economy to clean ways. And we still don’t have available and affordable ways to fix certain industries and products, such as aviation, marine shipping, fertilizers, cement and steel.
The promise of carbon removal is that it could buy more time for nations to turn to sustainable practices, and it could balance ongoing emissions from sources we don’t know how to change.
2. We will need to do a lot of it
The planet may need to pull down billions of tons of carbon dioxide each year to prevent the planet from rising to 2C, or to recapture the climate from it.
Models related to the three main methods of carbon removal that limit the temperature to 2 C: planting trees, restoring forests and adopting similar land management methods, developing and adjusting carbon-sucking machines, and generating energy while capturing emissions on plants. Depend, that is. Known as BECCS. Together, they will have to remove 17 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 and 35 billion tons by 2100, according to the report.
3. We need a portfolio of carbon removal options
The report emphasizes that different approaches to carbon removal have very different advantages and challenges.
For example, nature-based approaches such as planting trees and restoring forests are the most widely used today. But when plants die or burn in a fire, carbon can return to the atmosphere. So these solutions may be shorter than other methods, such as geological storage, which keep carbon away from the ground.
Direct air capture can permanently remove and store carbon, but machines are currently limited and expensive, and the technology uses large amounts of energy and water, the report notes.
The IPCC report’s models lean heavily on BECCS, a hybrid of nature-based and technology-based approaches, each with some advantages. However, BECCS needs a large amount of land which can compete with the needs of food production among other challenges.
The report notes various other ways of obtaining carbon dioxide, including sea-based approaches such as using minerals to increase the salinity of seawater. But this is mostly not tested.
4. Scaling up will require funding and policy decisions
The authors of the Climate Panel emphasize that achieving high levels of carbon emissions will require significant research and development to determine the most effective methods, minimize environmental impacts, and quickly develop large projects in the real world.
In response to the MIT Technology Review, Francis Wang, program manager at the ClimateWorks Foundation, wrote, “We need all hands on deck to explore diversified options for deep decarbonization and carbon dioxide removal.” Check.
The biggest hurdle in building a large carbon removal industry is likely to be costs. Who will pay the hundreds of billions of trillions of dollars to get rid of so much carbon dioxide every year?
The report states that the government’s “political commitment” will be needed to accelerate the research and development of carbon removal – and for businesses to actually do so. This means formulating policies to mandate or encourage carbon removal, as well as methods to ensure that the claimed climate benefits are being reaped.
If history were a guide, the grim findings of the new IPCC report would not change anything radically. The world is emitting about 6 billion tons more annually when the last big valuation was published in 2014. But more and more work is being done on carbon removal as the importance of its role in combating climate change becomes clearer. .