Broader range of scenarios needed for policymakers to limit warming to under 2°CLeave a Comment
- a broader range of scenarios is needed to support international policymakers in the target of limiting climate change to under 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to avoid potential negative environmental and social consequences of carbon dioxide removal on a massive scale.
- 87% of the scenarios in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report that limit climate change to less than 2°C rely heavily on negative emissions in the second half of the century, with most of the carbon dioxide removal coming from a suite of technologies known as Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)
- massive implementation of these type of land-based carbon dioxide removal strategies would have impacts on both the environment and the food system, with previous research showing trade-offs for food security and environmental conservation.
- reliance on future negative emissions to achieve climate goals may also fail to account for feedbacks in the climate system such as methane release from thawing permafrost, which are not yet fully understood
January 12, 2018 International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) read full ScienceDaily article here
A new article lays the groundwork for alternative climate mitigation scenarios that place less reliance on unproven negative emissions technologies in the future.
…”Many currently used emissions pathways assume that we can slowly decrease fossil fuel emissions today and make up for it later with heavy implementation of negative emissions technologies,” says IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program Director Michael Obersteiner, lead author of the article. “This is a problem because it assumes we can put the burden on future generations — which is neither a realistic assumption nor is it morally acceptable from an intergenerational equity point of view.”
….The researchers present four archetype scenarios that incorporate a broader range of potential mitigation options. These include:
- Major reliance on carbon dioxide removal in the future, the current archetype of many existing scenarios for achieving the 2°C or more stringent 1.5°C target.
- Rapid decarbonization starting immediately, and halving every decade as proposed in a recent Science commentary coauthored by IIASA researchers.
- Earlier implementation of carbon dioxide removal technologies, and phasing out by the end of the century
- Consistent implementation of carbon dioxide removal from now until the end of the century.
Under all these scenarios, current country commitments under the Paris Agreement would not be sufficient to achieve the required cuts, the researchers say…
….IIASA researcher Fabian Wagner, another study coauthor adds, “In this paper we have shown that negative emission technologies may not only be an asset but also an economic burden if not deployed with care. We as scientists need to be careful when we communicate to policymakers about how realistic different scenarios might be. When we present scenarios that require the world to convert an amount of land equivalent to all today’s cropland to energy plantations, alarm bells should go off.”
Michael Obersteiner, Johannes Bednar, Fabian Wagner, Thomas Gasser, Philippe Ciais, Nicklas Forsell, Stefan Frank, Petr Havlik, Hugo Valin, Ivan A. Janssens, Josep Peñuelas, Guido Schmidt-Traub. How to spend a dwindling greenhouse gas budget. Nature Climate Change, 2018; 8 (1): 7 DOI: 10.1038/s41558-017-0045-1