NEGATIVE EMISSIONS PRACTICALITY - John Wawrzonek

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NEGATIVE EMISSIONS: IS IT POSSIBLE?

A Discourse.

HOW CAN I BE SO CONFIDENT? THERE IS NO CHOICE BUT TO BE CONFIDENT.

What will make it possible? Humanity commits to it, and people everywhere work to reach a full state of intelligence, compassion, and devotion. An enormous amount of money and many jobs.

THERE ARE TWO WEB DOMAINS OR ADDRESSES FOR THIS WEB SITE: theearthistoast.com and inanothersshoes.com

Humanity has a great deal of learning to do and that includes the United States and that includes all parts of the political spectrum.

CHOICES: An Earth that keeps getting worse and worse with no hope for improvement. Gradual and eventual return to an Earth more like today.

Having achieved a global consensus at the Paris meeting of the UN Convention on Climate Change in December 2015, there may be a tendency to think the problem of climate change is finally on the way to being solved. This may be one reason for the lack of recognition in the public and political debate of the severity of the emission reductions required to achieve the target of restricting warming to within 2 °C of pre-industrial levels, let alone the 1.5 °C aspiration enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

One factor possibly contributing to a lack of urgency may be the belief that somehow ‘technology’ will come to the rescue. The present report shows that such expectations may be seriously over-optimistic. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) future scenarios allow Paris targets to be met by deploying technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, putting a hypothetical technology into a computer model of future scenarios is rather different than researching, developing, constructing and operating such a technology at the planetary scale required to compensate for inadequate mitigation.

Evaluations comparing the emission reduction plans submitted by countries with those required on the basis of science, show how large a gap remains between countries’ plans and the reductions required. The IPCC has shown that only limited amounts of carbon can be emitted in future without breaching the Agreement’s targets, and each year’s emissions take another chunk of carbon out of the available budget and makes achieving the objectives that much harder. It is no exaggeration to see responding to the real threats of climate change as a race against time: the longer action is delayed, the more acute and intractable the problem becomes.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, thinking that technology will come to the rescue if we fail to sufficiently mitigate may be an attractive vision. If such technologies are seen as a potential fail-safe or backup measure, they could influence priorities on shorterterm mitigation strategies, since the promise of future cost-effective removal technologies is politically more appealing than engaging in rapid and deep mitigation policies now. Placing an unrealistic expectation on such technologies could thus have irreversibly damaging consequences on future generations in the event of them failing to deliver. This would be a moral hazard which would be the antithesis of sustainable development.

A range of potential approaches exist for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, at least in theory, and we thus decided to assess the potential of such technologies on the basis of recent peer-reviewed literature. The results of this, which brought together experts from several EASAC member academies, are in this report. It shows that technologies capable of taking out CO2 from the atmosphere are certainly no ’silver bullet‘—a point that should drive policy-makers to renewed efforts to accelerate emissions reduction. At the same time, however, humanity will require all possible tools to limit warming, and these technologies include those that can make some contributions to remove CO2 from the atmosphere even now, while research, development and demonstration may allow others to make a limited future contribution. We thus conclude it is appropriate to continue work to identify the best technologies and the conditions under which they can contribute to climate change mitigation, even though they should not be expected to play a major role in climate control at the present time.

Global warming and the associated climate change are a global problem, and thus reducing the greenhouse gases driving this process is a global challenge. Historically the European Union has taken a leading position in the international negotiations on this critical challenge, and it is our hope that this analysis will not only reinforce the Union’s determination to tackle climate change but allow it to place the prospect of any future negative emission technologies in its proper perspective. Thierry Courvoisier EASAC President

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