The Paris climate agreement implies negative emissions if the ambitious goals set forth on December 12th are to be met. Despite ambitious pledges being made in preparation for the landmark climate summit that took place in Paris during this month, scientists warn that meeting the goals of the historic Paris climate agreement implies negative emissions.
It’s been a rocky path for the nations present at the negotiations. Yet, with the expectation invested in the climate summit so high, and understanding the need to act now, the negotiators reached what should have been reached in 2009 in Copenhagen: a historic climate agreement.
Now, to make it become reality, the world’s governments have grosso modo two options. The first implies the rapid and full outphasing of fossil fuels. The second implies negative emissions as a palliative for the damage that has been inflicted on the climate system so far.
The first option would of course be the short way out, the safest for meeting climate goals and the safest for the future of the planet. Yet cutting fossil fuels out of the grid is politically impossible. Many interests revolving around fossil fuel extraction and use are endangered by a prospective national plans to do so. It’s also not feasible for a short-term implementation. That leaves reaching negative emissions through a host of measure as the more viable yet more complex pathway to reaching the climate goals of the historic climate agreement.
Greenhouse gases released in the atmosphere from a host of human activities including the exploitation and use of fossil fuels drive global warming and climate change. The job sounds easy: remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than we release.
A closer look at the top emitting sectors will show that’s easier said than done. Currently approximately 50 billion tons of greenhouse gases are released in the atmosphere. Most originate in the burning of fossil fuels for energy. While there are methods to ensure an effective cleanup of the atmosphere, these would have to be scaled up to unprecedented levels.
Some may even come in conflict with other pressing issues, among which eradicating hunger, using lands sustainably. Jan Minx, researcher with the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change of Berlin stated that the scientific community needs to pick up the role in leading discussion on technologies for an effective cleanup of the atmosphere.
The Paris climate agreement implies negative emissions if the world’s governments are serious about keeping the global temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. Or even below 1.5 degrees Celsius if we want to avoid disaster for low lying island nations.
For these ambitious climate goals to be reached, the world needs to prop research into technologies that can deliver negative emissions now. Climate policy is late. Thus, we need to buy time now in the most effective manner.
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