Over time to avoid dangerous global warming, the US's leading scientific bodies on Wednesday called on the federal government to…
Over time to avoid dangerous global warming, the US’s leading scientific bodies on Wednesday called on the federal government to launch a research program focusing on developing technologies that can remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to contribute to slow climate change.
The 369-page report, written by a panel of national academies for science, technology and medicine, emphasizes an important shift. For decades, experts said nations could prevent large temperatures from rising, primarily by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and moving to cleaner sources such as solar power, wind power and nuclear power.
But now, nations have been delayed for so long in reducing their carbon dioxide emissions as even a breakneck switches to clean energy would probably not be enough.
According to a milestone scientific report issued by the United Nations this month, it can take a large part of the carbon dioxide already loaded into the atmosphere. necessary to avoid significant additional heating, although researchers have not yet figured out how to do it financially or adequately.
And we must do it quickly. To meet the climate targets laid down in the Paris agreement, humanity must begin removing about 1
0 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air annually by midcentury, in addition to reducing industrial emissions, says Stephen Pacala, a climate researcher in Princeton who led the panel. It’s almost as much carbon as all the world’s forests and fields currently absorb every year.
“Midcentury is not that far away,” said Professor Pacala. “Developing technology and scaling up to 10 billion tons per year is a daunting endeavor, something that would really require a lot of activity. So time would have to be now.”
Panel members acknowledged that the Trump administration may not find the climate change argument all that is convincing because the president has renounced the Paris agreement. But, Professor Pacala said, it is quite likely that other countries will be interested in carbon removal. The United States can play a leading role in developing technologies that could ever value millions of dollars.
Right now there are plenty of ideas for kicking out the coal. Countries can plant more trees that pull carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it in the wood. Farmers could adopt technicians, such as agriculture, which would hold more carbon dioxide in the soil.
Some companies build “direct flights” facilities that use chemical agents to scrub traces of carbon dioxide from the air so that they can sell the gas to industrial customers or bury it underground.
But the National Academic Panel warned, many of these methods are still non-existent or facing serious limitations. There is only so much land available to plant new trees. Researchers are still uncertain how much coal can be realistically stored in farmland. And direct air catchments are still too expensive for mass expansion.
In theory, it may be possible to collect wood or other plant substances that absorb carbon dioxide from the air, burn it into biomass power plants for energy and then capture the coal released from combustion and bury it deep underground, which basically creates a power plant that has negative emissions. While no such facilities are commercially active today, technology exists for building them.
However, a potential problem with this approach, the National Academies panel said, that the country required to grow biomass for these power stations could contradict the need for agricultural land for food. The panel that estimates this method can one day remove three billion to five billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air each year, but possibly much less due to ground constraints.
It is far from the 10 billion to 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide, we may have to pull in the air at the end of the century to limit global warming to about 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the latest UN report. That figure presupposes that nations succeed in decarbonizing their energy and industrial systems almost 2050.
If nations fail to keep global warming below the 1.5 degree, the UN report warned that tens of millions of people could be exposed to life-threatening heat waves and water shortage, and the world’s coral reefs could disappear almost completely.
The National Academies Panel recommended a dual strategy. The United States could set up programs to start testing and using carbon dioxide removal methods that are ready to go, such as negative emissions biomass plants, new forest technology or coal cultivation programs.
At the same time, federal authorities would need to fund early stage removal techniques to investigate whether they could be ready for widespread use.
For example, scientists have long known that certain minerals, such as peridotite, can bind carbon dioxide into the air and essentially convert the gas into solid rock. Researchers in Oman have investigated the possibility of using the country’s major mineral deposits for carbon removal, but there are still major questions about whether this can be done on a large scale.
In its report, the panel published a detailed research agenda that could ultimately cost billions of dollars. But because carbon removal could “solve a significant part of the climate problem,” the report says, these costs are modest. In comparison, the federal government banned $ 22 billion from renewable energy research between 1978 and 2013.
External experts welcomed the report as a sign that carbon removal at last will be a key part of the discussion on how to deal with climate change.
We move from the early stages of “what is carbon removal?” To find out what specific measures can be taken to get these solutions on a large scale, “said Noah Deich, CEO of the Carbon180 group, who recently began to bring researchers and companies together to help remove technologies for carbon removal on the market.
The National Academy Panel, however, warned of a potential disadvantage of carbon removal research. It could create a “moral hazard” where governments may feel less urgent to cut their own emissions if they think that giant coal mining machinery will soon save the day.
To this end, the panel stressed that carbon removal, if developed, could only be part of a major global warming strategy. “Reducing emissions,” said the report, “is crucial to addressing climate problem. “