Oct 25, 2018

Scientists say major push for CO2 removal needed

Ben Geman, author of Generate

A new National Academy of Sciences report calls for a "substantial research initiative" to quickly advance technologies that directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Why it matters: It's a stark recognition that expansion of zero-carbon energy sources will not be enough to meet the internationally recognized goal of holding the global temperature rise below 2°C/ 3.6°F, let alone 1.5°C/ 2.7°F — which are recognized benchmarks for avoiding some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

What they found: "Recent analyses of economically optimal solutions to the climate problem have concluded that [negative emissions technologies] will play as significant a role as any mitigation technology," the report states.

It envisions 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions-removal needed annually by roughly mid-century, an amount that doubles by 2100.

This Associated Press piece nicely puts that 10 billion number in context:

"That’s the equivalent of about twice the yearly emissions of the U.S.," AP notes. "Last year the world put nearly 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, and emissions have been rising."

Where it stands: The panel of scientists that wrote the report conclude that while some options already exist, they're not ready to get the job done at the scale needed — thanks to vast amounts of land needed and other constraints — and without unintended harms.

They include various types of land-use changes — like forest-planting — and soil management practices that increase CO2 uptake, as well as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (which would require vast amounts of cropland at scale).

So a lot more research is needed to improve those options, reduce their negative effects and cut costs.

  • Meanwhile, 2 other major options that have "essentially unlimited" capacity — direct air capture and carbon mineralization — have barely been explored, they note.
  • They caution that CO2 removal is not a replacement for other mitigation strategies or emissions cuts, but rather a piece of the solution.

Go deeper

The technology of witnessing brutality

Charging Alabama state troopers pass by fallen demonstrators in Selma on March 7, 1965. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

The ways Americans capture and share records of racist violence and police misconduct keep changing, but the pain of the underlying injustices they chronicle remains a stubborn constant.

Driving the news: After George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked wide protests, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said, “Thank God a young person had a camera to video it."

40 mins ago - Health

Lessons from the lockdown — and what comes next

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

We are nowhere near finished with the coronavirus, but the next phases of our response will — if we do it right — be more targeted and risk-based than the sweeping national lockdown we’re now emerging from.

Why it matters: Our experience battling this new virus has taught us a lot about what does and doesn’t work. We’ll have to apply those lessons rigorously, and keep adapting, if we have any hope of containing the virus and limiting the number of deaths from here on out.

Updated 58 mins ago - Politics & Policy

George Floyd protests: Unrest continues for 6th night across U.S.

A protest near the White House on Sunday night. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Most external lights at the White House were turned off late Sunday as the D.C. National Guard was deployed and authorities fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters nearby, per the New York Times.

What's happening: It's one of several tense, late-night standoffs between law enforcement and demonstrators in the United States over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people.