Scientific researches clearly indicate that restricting our efforts to just adopting renewable energy, promoting energy efficiency, stopping deforestation and cutting down on emissions, is simply not enough to meet the climate challenges brutally hurled upon us by nature. Though the above remain crucial for sustainability, they will fall short of meeting the expectations laid out by the Paris Agreement.
It is suggested by experts that for global warming prevention, the world needs to scale net negative emissions- the idea of sequestrating more carbon from the atmosphere than we are releasing into it. This refers to integrating technical prowess for carbon removal and storing it forever.
Gearing Up for Negative Emissions
The idea of negative emissions introduced by Paris Agreement speaks of limiting temperature fluctuation to 1.5-2 degree C. Focus is being laid on helping the emissions trajectory reach net-zero by second half of the century, while innovating ways to further reduce it. Negative emissions are of course essential to offset the remaining greenhouse gas emitting activities that is extremely expensive to eliminate and compensate any drastic rise in temperature.
The plausible strategy to attain negative emissions is to abide by carbon removal mechanisms- both natural and technological approaches that are instrumental in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help in global warming prevention. Using biological process to remove stored carbon from forest, wasteland or wetlands, as well as, using technology to remove carbon directly from the air and manipulate natural carbon storage, helps in strategizing removal processes.
Contemplating Plausible Solutions
Carbon removal is all about addressing the source of the climate challenge. Burning of biomass like crop wastes for energy, capturing and storing carbon emissions underground in geological formations serves efficiently at a large scale- given the minimal availability of land.
Studies suggest by 2050, 8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide has to be sequestrated annually on an average. By 2100, the world requires storing about 810 GTCO2 cumulatively- which equals 20 years of emission at current rates.
Interventions in the direction of protecting the ecological balance by managing forests, wetlands, grasslands and agricultural stretches better, serve in removing a minimum of 5.6 GTCO2e of carbon per annum.- the total emissions from agro industry in 2014, at an expense 100$ less per tonne of carbon. These natural ways also serve in improving soil fertility, water quality and saves biodiversity. But, the catch is: carbon expected to be removed might not be removed permanently owing to destruction of restored forest land by a wildfire or a farmer ploughing the land restricted from tilling. On the contrary, technological deployments still seem to be expensive and risky and absolutely not ready for deployment. But upholding technological redressal can vehemently affect the natural distribution of forest and agro land which can serve as reserve of bioenergy. Therefore, creating a portfolio of both approaches is essential to mitigate climate issue.
Compelling Innovations on Its Way
Although part of the ongoing debate, the overwhelming and ambitious goal of restoring 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 requires mobilization at all levels, while setting realistic targets in the fore. Certain commercial systems like direct air capture using low cost carbon neutral energy and storage systems are already under the demonstration phase. One being Allam Cycle that aims at carbon capture- an integral part of the core electricity generation process. This mechanism ensures incentivizing geological storage, transforms functionality of power systems and will support in pulling down carbon removal expenditure.
Limiting the temperature rise to 2 degree C is easier said than done. Scaling the potentiality of Carbon removal mechanisms and their cost effectiveness lies in the way of resilience and sustainability.