Sunday, July 26, 2015

A ‘Third Way’ to Fight Climate Change - by Tim Flannery

Looking to capture greenhouse gas emissions with a net (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Two options for dealing with climate change — reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a global agreement, and geoengineering proposals such as injecting sulfur into the stratosphere — tend to dominate current thinking.  But there is a “third way” that is almost entirely neglected in political negotiations and public debate.  It involves capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it or using it to create things we need. Because of the scale of the climate problem, I believe that in coming decades third-way technologies will become a major focus of activity.

Human emissions of greenhouse gases have grown so swiftly over the past decade that they’re following the worst case scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In round numbers, humanity is now emitting more than 10 gigatons of carbon (in the form of 40 gigatons of CO2) annually.  The atmospheric CO2 concentration is nearing 400 parts per million, its highest level in millions of years.  Because CO2 lasts so long in the atmosphere, even if no more were emitted, the existing gas would cause temperatures to rise by a further 0.5 degrees Celsius (to about 1.5 degrees above the preindustrial average).

Sadly, emissions will not stop instantly.  Instead, the national pledges being made in advance of the international climate change conference in Paris at the end of this year suggest that not enough will be done to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond the goal of 2 degrees Celsius.

As the years go by, it will become highly desirable to remove some of that CO2.  But it turns out that removing a gigaton of carbon from the atmosphere can be a task of planetary proportions.

Read more at A ‘Third Way’ to Fight Climate Change

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