Nav: Home

Rapid emissions reductions would keep CO2 removal and costs in check

March 28, 2018

Rapid greenhouse-gas emissions reductions are needed if governments want to keep in check both the costs of the transition towards climate stabilization and the amount of removing already emitted CO2 from the atmosphere. To this end, emissions in 2030 would need to be at least 20 percent below what countries have pledged under the Paris climate agreement, a new study finds - an insight that is directly relevant for the global stock-take scheduled for the UN climate summit in Poland later this year. Removing CO2 from the atmosphere through technical methods including carbon capture and underground storage (CCS) or increased use of plants to suck up CO2 comes with a number of risks and uncertainties, and hence the interest of limiting them.

"Emissions reduction efforts in the next decade pledged by governments under the Paris climate agreement are by far not sufficient to attain the explicit aim of the agreement - they will not keep warming below the 2-degrees-limit," says Jessica Strefler from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), lead-author of the analysis published in Environmental Research Letters. "To stabilize the climate before warming crosses the Paris threshold, we either have to undertake the huge effort of halving emissions until 2030 and achieving emission neutrality by 2050 - or the emissions reductions would have to be complemented by CO2 removal technologies. In our study, we for the first time try to identify the minimum CO2 removal requirements - and how these requirements can be reduced with increased short-term climate action."

At least 5 billion tons of CO2 removal per year throughout the second half of the century

It turns out that, according to the computer simulations done by the scientists, challenges for likely keeping warming below the threshold agreed in Paris would increase sharply if CO2 removal from the atmosphere is restricted to less than 5 billion tons of CO2 per year throughout the second half of the century. This is substantial. It would mean for instance building up an industry for carbon capture and storage that moves masses comparable to today's global petroleum industry. Still, 5 billion tons of CO2 removal is modest compared to the tens of billion tons that some scenarios used in climate policy debates assume. Current CO2 emissions worldwide are more than 35 billion tons per year.

"Less than 5 billion tons of CO2 removal could drastically drive up the challenges of climate stabilization", says co-author Nico Bauer from PIK. "If for instance this amount of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) was halved, then the annual CO2 reduction rates between 2030 and 2050 would have to be doubled to still achieve 2 degrees Celsius. In addition, short-term emissions reductions would also have to be increased as the emissions reductions pledged so far by the signatories of the Paris Agreement are not sufficient to keep warming below 2 degrees if they're not combined with CO2 removal from the atmosphere."

"It is all about short-term entry points, like rapidly phasing out coal"

More CO2 removal could in principle reduce costs since, on paper, implementing the relevant technologies to compensate residual emissions in industry and transport is cheaper than pushing emissions reduction from 90 percent to 100 percent. However, CO2 removal technologies are afflicted with three types of uncertainties and risks. First, the technical feasibility and also the costs are not well known so far. Second, they might have negative effects for sustainability; a massive scale-up of bio-energy production for instance could trigger land-use conflicts and come at the expense of food production and ecosystem protection. Third, the political feasibility is by no means given. In Germany, fears expressed by parts of the population made the government stop even small-scale carbon capture and storage implementation.

"This gives important information to governments - first, rapid short-term emissions reductions are the most robust way of preventing climate damages, and second, large-scale deployment of CDR technologies can only be avoided when reliable CO2 prices are introduced as soon as possible," says Ottmar Edenhofer, co-author of the study and PIK's chief economist. "Ramping up climate policy ambition for 2030 to reduce emissions by 20 percent is economically feasible. It is all about short-term entry points: rapidly phasing out coal in developed countries such as Germany and introducing minimum prices for CO2 in pioneer coalitions in Europe and China makes sense almost irrespective of the climate target you aim for. In contrast, our research shows that delaying action makes costs and risks skyrocket. People as well as businesses want stability, and this is what policy-makers can provide - if they act rapidly."
-end-
Article: Jessica Strefler, Nico Bauer, Elmar Kriegler, Alexander Popp, Anastasis Giannousakis, Ottmar Edenhofer (2018): Between Scylla and Charybdis: Delayed mitigation narrows the passage between large-scale CDR and high costs. Environmental Research Letters [DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aab2ba]

Weblink to the article once it is published: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aab2ba

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate
http://www.pik-potsdam.de

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

Related Emissions Articles:

Methane emissions from trees
A new study from the University of Delaware is one of the first in the world to show that tree trunks in upland forests actually emit methane rather than store it, representing a new, previously unaccounted source of this powerful greenhouse gas.
Emissions from the edge of the forest
Half of the carbon stored in all of the Earth's vegetation is contained in tropical forests.
An overlooked source of carbon emissions
Nations that pledged to carry out the Paris climate agreement have moved forward to find practical ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including efforts to ban hydrofluorocarbons and set stricter fuel-efficiency standards.
New method for quantifying methane emissions from manure management
The EU Commision requires Denmark to reduce drastically emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture.
'Watchdog' for greenhouse gas emissions
Mistakes can happen when estimating emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
A lower limit for future climate emissions
A new study finds that the world can emit even less greenhouse gases than previously estimated in order to limit climate change to less than 2°C.
Study: Second-generation biofuels can reduce emissions
Second-generation biofuel crops like the perennial grasses Miscanthus and switchgrass can efficiently meet emission reduction goals without significantly displacing cropland used for food production, according to a new study.
Large and increasing methane emissions from northern lakes
Climate-sensitive regions in the north are home to most of the world's lakes.
Global CO2 emissions projected to stall in 2015
Global carbon emissions are projected to stall in 2015, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project.
DXL-2: Studying X-ray emissions in space
On Dec. 4, 2015, NASA will launch the DXL-2 payload at 11:45 p.m.

Related Emissions Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#520 A Closer Look at Objectivism
This week we broach the topic of Objectivism. We'll be speaking with Keith Lockitch, senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, about the philosophy of Objectivism as it's taught through Ayn Rand's writings. Then we'll speak with Denise Cummins, cognitive scientist, author and fellow at the Association for Psychological Science, about the impact of Objectivist ideology on society. Related links: This is what happens when you take Ayn Rand seriously Another Critic Who Doesn’t Care What Rand Thought or Why She Thought It, Only That She’s Wrong Quote is from "A Companion to Ayn Rand"