IPCC AR5: We need Carbon Dioxide Removal!

The last Assessment Report 5 (AR5) of the ‘International Panel on Climate Change’ (IPCC) points out the critical need for strategies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and actively reduce acidification of the oceans.  It is not anymore sufficient to end greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize the economy,  if we really want to prevent dangerous consequences.

Scientists have studied the climate and modelled it in great detail.  There are also many studies of the effects on nature, humanity, and the economy.  Engineers have developed technological solutions to reduce emissions.  The IPCC has reviewed and collected this knowledge in reports, the latest being “Assessment Report 5”, AR5.

Moreover, many studies have been done on how our economy can be decarbonized. We need to lose our dependence on fossil fuels. We must stop emitting greenhouse gasses. Economists have modelled the costs of doing nothing and the costs of transition. They confirm that decarbonization is both possible and affordable. The advice of economists is to put a price on carbon emissions which will bend our economy towards this new future.

A few leading countries already have taken significant steps by changing policy. They are also setting expectations by making strong commitments for the future. Other countries have strong grassroots movements in business, private initiatives in the home, or environmental movements. Many of the largest emitters of CO2 have realised that they have to be part of the solution.  Other large companies are tied to old technology.  They are struggling against decarbonization, using all legal, rhetorical and political means.  While emerging economies are becoming so large that they are now driving growth of worldwide CO2 emissions.  This is the complex reality we are now living in.

Climate diplomacy of the United Nations (UN) has its periodic highlights at the yearly Conference of the Parties (COP), of the International Framework Convention for Climate Change (IFCCC). Unfortunately, all the negotiating countries are still working on setting up a mechanism to drive action on climate. They did, however, succeed in defining the grand view on the issue. There is agreement that the clear point where climate change becomes dangerous is probably when worldwide warming exceeds 2ºC. It was agreed that this should be avoided. Even at large costs.

The next step will be at the 2015 meeting in Paris, with expectations growing that after a long wait, big steps will be taken.  The news is that the two largest climate polluters, the USA and China have agreed to join the global effort on climate action. There is an essential  problem that the USA Congressional process to ratify treaties is blocked. Therefore it has to be a non-binding agreement, with only commitments from the USA President, without ratification by Congress.  The result will be a  non-binding agreement, where every country taking part gets to state its own non-binding commitments. However, this may even have certain advantages.  Countries may want to go beyond a least common denominator.  There is some hope that climate action isn’t anymore a purely a ‘burden’ that needs to be shared.  It is slowly morphing into a race.  Those that don’t take part, will be automatic losers.

At this point in time (oct 2014), the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has come out with its latest ‘synthesis report’ of the 3 large working groups in the 5th assessment on the current state climate change science. The most important end result is that the IPCC can now define a ‘climate budget’ for the world population. We now know, approximately, how much CO2 the world can still emit before the risk of dangerous climate change (2ºC) becomes too large.

The IPCC also acknowledge that it is already difficult for the world to remain below the warming level of 2ºC. The climate models have calculated through various scenarios, and those that succeed (SP2.6) depend in large measures on a new type of solution: Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR). In its ‘synthesis report’, the IPCC only mentions the CDR strategy called ‘BECCS’, where Bio Energy is burned, and the Carbon is then Captured and Stored underground (CCS).

It is important news that the IPCC now so clearly states that CDR strategies must be developed and made to work. The Olivine Foundation feels that Enhanced Weathering is the most feasible method, the most affordable, and probably the one that has most potential to scale to the large size that would be necessary to make a difference.