We Can Pull CO2 from Air, But It’s No Silver Bullet for Climate Change, Scientists Warn

We Can Pull CO2 from Air, But It’s No Silver Bullet for Climate Change, Scientists Warn

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: February 6, 2018 SNIP: While technologies are being developed that can remove carbon dioxide from the air, they aren’t yet feasible on the scale needed to slow global warming, Europe’s national science academies warn in a new report. A wide array of technologies—from land management to ocean fertilization to capturing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it—are in various stages of testing and use, but according to the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, climate scientists and policymakers are being “seriously over-optimistic” about how much these approaches can help deal with the global warming crisis. In recent years, climate experts have suggested that it’s not enough to just decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. To avoid more than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming this century, they say, net emissions will have to fall to zero within a few decades, and it’s worth considering “negative emissions”—steps that subtract pollution from the atmosphere to offset what is being added. But despite the appeal of that notion, which in theory allows the world to overshoot its emissions budget for a while and make up the difference later, the new report warns against banking on it. “These technologies offer only limited realistic potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and not at the scale envisaged in some climate scenarios,” wrote the report’s authors, a group of experts representing the national science academies of the European Union member states, Norway and Switzerland. That’s troubling, because most of the pathways laid out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) rely on deploying negative emissions approaches by...
The Dirty Secret of the World’s Plan to Avert Climate Disaster

The Dirty Secret of the World’s Plan to Avert Climate Disaster

SOURCE: Wired DATE: December 10, 2017 SNIP: The UN report envisions 116 scenarios in which global temperatures are prevented from rising more than 2°C. In 101 of them, that goal is accomplished by sucking massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—a concept called “negative emissions”—chiefly via BECCS. And in these scenarios to prevent planetary disaster, this would need to happen by midcentury, or even as soon as 2020. Like a pharmaceutical warning label, one footnote warned that such “methods may carry side effects and long-term consequences on a global scale.” Indeed, following the scenarios’ assumptions, just growing the crops needed to fuel those BECCS plants would require a landmass one to two times the size of India. The energy BECCS was supposed to supply is on par with all of the coal-fired power plants in the world. In other words, the models were calling for an energy revolution—one that was somehow supposed to occur well within millennials’ lifetimes. Today that vast future sector of the economy amounts to one working project in the world: a repurposed corn ethanol plant in Decatur, Illinois. Which raises a question: Has the world come to rely on an imaginary technology to save it? “The most important of the IPCC’s projections is that we’re screwed unless we can figure out how to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, because we haven’t acted fast enough,” [Emily McGlynn] says. “I think that’s the most important part of the...