Immediate and aggressive action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says new study

December 8, 2015 by Laura Graham
The Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) demonstration facility in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, Japan. This view shows the carbon dioxide absorption and separation towers. Credit: Florian Kraxner

Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced aggressively and immediately because there are significant constraints to large-scale deployment of negative emissions technologies in the future, says a new study led by Professor Pete Smith from the University of Aberdeen.

The study, which is published today in Nature Climate Change, demonstrates the potential environmental, economic and energy impacts of negative emission technologies for addressing climate change.

Negative emission technologies aim to remove carbon dioxide (CO2), a major driver of climate change, from the atmosphere. They include relatively simple options like planting more trees to lock up CO2 as they grow, or crushing rocks that naturally absorb CO2 and spreading them on soils so that they remove CO2 more rapidly. Other higher-tech options include using chemicals to absorb CO2 from the air, or burning plants for energy and capturing the CO2 that would otherwise be released, then storing it permanently deep below the ground (called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage).

The work was carried out by a team of 40 collaborators as a contribution to the Global Carbon Project.

The research considers the impacts of negative emission technologies on land use, , water use, earth's reflectivity, and soil nutrient depletion, as well as the energy and cost requirements for each technology. The study shows that there are many such impacts that vary across technologies. These impacts need to be satisfactorily addressed if negative emission technologies are to play a significant role in achieving climate change goals.

The study concludes that a heavy reliance on the future use of negative technology to offset emissions from continued use of fossil fuels in the present is extremely risky, since our ability to stabilise climate change at less than 2ᵒC above pre-industrial global average temperatures declines as cumulative emissions increase. As the deployment of these technologies will likely be limited due to any combination of the environmental, economic or energy constraints examined in the study, "Plan A" must be to reduce GHG emissions aggressively now. A failure to initiate such aggressive emissions cuts may leave us with no "Plan B" to stabilise the climate within the 2ᵒC target.

Professor Smith said: "We decided to examine negative emission technologies since most global integrated assessment models, used to examine pathways to a stable climate, show that negative emissions technologies may be required in combination with aggressive GHG emissions reductions to limit climate warming to safe levels.

"It is important to publish these findings now, as ways to limit are currently being discussed at the climate negotiations in Paris, and we want negotiators to have the best current information.

"We show that all negative emissions technologies have significant limitations and whilst we need to invest in research and development to try and overcome these limitations, the key message from our study is that we should not rely on these, as yet, unproven technologies to save us in the future. Rather, swift and aggressive cuts in greenhouse are needed now. The window of opportunity is closing rapidly, so it is imperative to get a global accord to move forward in Paris this month."

Explore further: Climate scientist hits out at IPCC projections

More information: Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2870

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15 comments

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gkam
2.5 / 5 (11) Dec 08, 2015
Thankfully, many governments are starting to deal with this problem. But how do we deal with those who kept us from tackling this issue because of politics and/or selfishness and greed?

If we wanted to be name-callers, they would be tarred as "Republicans".
DavidW
1 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2015
http://www.bbc.co...35039465
http://www.mnn.co...for-life

All they had to do was accept life is most important in life and they would have made the change in their lifestyle sooner. Kudo's that they have come around to commonsense.
Eikka
3 / 5 (4) Dec 09, 2015
But how do we deal with those who kept us from tackling this issue because of politics and/or selfishness and greed?


By developing working cost-effective solutions rather than talking politics and making it a moral issue, like you do. All you personally do is shed crocodile tears while buying natural gas from the pipeline because it's cheap.

You want more clean energy, great. Nuclear is banned, renewables don't have what it takes. Carbon trading/taxing schemes simply transmit the CO2 output to someone else's smokestack. What next?
cantdrive85
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 09, 2015
Immediate and aggressive action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says new study

Of course it does, how else would they hope to get paid for their "study".
gkam
2.1 / 5 (7) Dec 09, 2015
Like I do, personally??

All I do personally is to install the most efficient heaters of house and water available, re-insulate and re-cover the house, buy 4.5 kW of PV, and an electric car to use it.

What have YOU done?
gkam
2.1 / 5 (7) Dec 09, 2015
Eikka made a challenge to me, and now I want him to respond. What has HE done to fight AGW? How does he heat his home? Is it with the coal he champions?
antigoracle
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 09, 2015
buy 4.5 kW of PV

What % of your total power consumption is that?
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 09, 2015
It is about 100% over the year.

What have you done?
antigoracle
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2015
I rent and recently cut my power consumption by 15%.
gkam
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 09, 2015
15%? Good for you. That's not easy to do renting sometimes.
howhot2
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 10, 2015
@Eikka says;
You want more clean energy, great. Nuclear is banned, renewables don't have what it takes. Carbon trading/taxing schemes simply transmit the CO2 output to someone else's smokestack.
I think you have been taught poorly. In reality, renewables have more than enough of "what it takes" to provide energy to the globe 100 times over for as long as the sun shines. Solar provides 1kW/m^2 and up to 8 in some areas.

http://www.pveduc...adiation

The sheer amount of untapped solar energy hitting the earth would beat all other energy sources combined and the supply is pretty much infinite for mankind's existence. So the reality is Renewables do have what it takes. Don't forget it.

Shootist
2 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2015
"Generally speaking, I'm much more of a conformist, but it happens I have strong views about climate because I think the majority is badly wrong, and you have to make sure if the majority is saying something that they're not talking nonsense." - Freeman Dyson.

As a general rule, when Freeman Dyson says your science is rubbish, it probably is.
rgw
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 10, 2015
Like I do, personally??

All I do personally is to install the most efficient heaters of house and water available, re-insulate and re-cover the house, buy 4.5 kW of PV, and an electric car to use it.

What have YOU done?


I advocate DNA weapons to target the populations of the Han Chinese, most Arabs and about 25% of the Indian subcontinent.
kochevnik
5 / 5 (3) Dec 10, 2015
@Eikka You want more clean energy, great. Nuclear is banned, renewables don't have what it takes
I'm running solar, and the new panels even handle shading. Maybe YOU don't have what it takes
Treeman
not rated yet Dec 14, 2015
'If you want to be a name caller' you are probably taking the path of least resistance. How about changing YOUR lifestyle. I live consecutively, have a wind turbine, solar water heater, recycle everything and vote Republican. Personally, I don't want you to tell me how to live.

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