SOURCE: New York Magazine

DATE: March 25, 2018

SNIP: Remember Paris?

It was not even two years ago that the celebrated climate accords were signed — defining two degrees of global warming as a must-meet target and rallying all the world’s nations to meet it — and the returns are already dispiritingly grim.

This week, the International Energy Agency announced that carbon emissions grew 1.7 percent in 2017, after an ambiguous couple of years optimists hoped represented a leveling off, or peak; instead, we’re climbing again. Even before the new spike, not a single major industrial nation was on track to fulfill the commitments it made in the Paris treaty. To keep the planet under two degrees of warming — a level that was, not all that long ago, defined as the threshold of climate catastrophe — all signatory nations have to match or better those commitments.

But this winter has brought even worse news than the abject failure of Paris compliance, in the form of a raft of distressing papers about what beyond compliance is required to stay below two degrees. Were each of those 195 countries to suddenly shape up, dramatically cutting back on fossil fuels to bring emissions in line with targets, that would still be not nearly enough to hit even Paris’s quite scary target. We don’t just need to draw down fossil fuels to stay below two degrees; doing so also requires “negative emissions” — extracting carbon from the atmosphere, essentially buying back some amount of existing fossil-fuel pollution through a combination of technological and agricultural tools.

[I]n 2014, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented more than 100 modeled scenarios that would keep global temperatures below two degrees of warming. Nearly all of them relied on negative emissions. These tools come in two forms: technologies that would suck carbon out of the air (called CCS, for carbon capture and storage) and new approaches to forestry and agriculture that would do the same, in a slightly more old-fashioned way (bioenergy carbon capture and storage, or BECCS).

According to these recent papers, both are something close to fantasy: at best, uneconomical and entirely untested at scale, and, at worst, wholly inadequate to the job being asked of them.