New Report Calls for Development of Carbon Dioxide Removal Strategies
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently released a report advising the United States government to devote more resources to researching carbon dioxide removal technologies. This comes following the publication of a United Nations study earlier this month, which states that removing significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be essential in reducing future global warming.
The National Academies’ 369-page report, entitled “Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration,” states that “to achieve goals for climate and economic growth, ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NETs) that remove and sequester carbon dioxide from the air will need to play a significant role in mitigating climate change.”
While previous research indicated that the transition to clean power sources such as wind and solar would largely prevent serious temperature increases, researchers are now realizing the importance of developing technologies for carbon dioxide removal. According to the report, “by mid-century, the world needs to be removing about 10 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the air each year,” a number that is approximately two times the amount of annual emissions by the United States. Last year, global emissions of carbon dioxide reached almost 37 million metric tons, and the amount has only been increasing.
The National Academies panel outlined a two part strategy for carbon dioxide removal, advising the federal government to establish programs for the research and deployment of already-developed carbon removal methods, while simultaneously funding research into early-stage carbon removal techniques which could be used widely in the future.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a statement in conjunction with their published study which asserts that “limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society... The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.”
According to Christopher Jones, an engineering professor at Georgia Tech and co-author of the National Academies’ report, “the good news is that technology in this field has advanced more in the past nine months than it had in the previous decade.” However, there is still a large distance to be covered when it comes to preventatively reducing carbon dioxide emissions and implementing carbon dioxide removal strategies. While these removal strategies will undoubtedly play an important role in reducing global warming, both the National Academies and UN reports highlight the continued importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in mitigating climate change.