No silver bullet in NETs

Negative emission technologies (NETs) will not be able to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at the scale needed to beat climate change, scientists have warned.

A new report from the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) explains that even if the NETs could be deployed at scale, they would likely have major ecological impacts.

It argues that governments should not assume future technologies will be able to redress the effects of climate change, and must instead ramp up their “inadequate” mitigation efforts as laid down under the Paris Agreement.

“Relying on NETs to compensate for failures to adequately mitigate emissions may have serious implications for future generations,” the EASAC said.

“Scenarios and projections that suggest that NETs’ future contribution to CO2 removal will allow Paris targets to be met appear optimistic on the basis of current knowledge.”

The report finds that there are no NETs with the potential to deliver carbon removals at the scale and rate envisaged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This includes reforestation, afforestation, carbon-friendly agriculture, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, enhanced weathering, ocean fertilisation, or direct air capture and carbon storage.

However, it is thought that NETs could still play an important role, with the report arguing that technical challenges in carbon capture and storage must be solved urgently.

All plans to do this in the EU are currently on hold, meaning that whatever experience is being gained globally is outside of Europe.

In addition, it explains how there must be better control over the current loss of forests and soil degradation, while also restoring soil carbon levels – some of the most credible approaches to removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

“We won’t stop the world warming until we work out a way of disposing carbon dioxide without dumping it in the atmosphere,” Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford, said.

“There is only one institution in the world with the capital, expertise and resources to dispose of CO2 on the necessary scale, and that is the fossil fuel industry.”

 

Image credit: iStock

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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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