Reassessing Carbon Dioxide Removal: Evaluating Sustainability Risks and Mitigation Potential
Understanding the Sustainability Risks of Carbon Dioxide Removal
The growing concerns about global warming and climate change have led to the development and use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques. Among these are bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and afforestation and reforestation (A/R). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has outlined the potential of these techniques to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. However, it has also been noted that these methods can pose sustainability risks, especially with heavy use.
These risks are associated with large-scale land use changes that could lead to significant ecological and societal impacts, including biodiversity loss, compromise on food security, freshwater use, and potential human rights violations. In fact, it has been found that sustainability risks commence well below the technical mitigation potential for both BECCS and A/R. This suggests a possible detrimental impact on human livelihoods and food security.
Discrepancies and Misinterpretations in IPCC Reports
Unfortunately, the IPCC’s report on CDR has been subject to misinterpretations and cherry-picking from the Summary for Policymakers. This has led to skewed perspectives on what’s achievable and has fueled false narratives about the potential of CDR. The report itself includes cautionary notes and warnings about the technologies emphasizing the influence of political pressure in shaping the summary.
There’s a notable discrepancy between the IPCC’s report on CDR and its Summary for Policymakers, raising concerns about political pressure influencing the emphasis on CDR as the solution to the climate crisis. This overreliance on future large-scale, land-based CDR to avoid making necessary greenhouse gas emission cuts today, and the need for more balanced and sustainable approaches, have been highlighted.
Rethinking Carbon Dioxide Removal Strategies
Given these concerns, there’s a pressing need to reassess and refine our understanding and analysis of the CDR mitigation potential. This includes addressing concerns about land-use change, biodiversity loss, food security, and human rights. Separate and transparent targets for emission reductions and removals should be established, along with a more balanced approach to CDR deployment. Smaller scale deployment of CDR is suggested, along with a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels to meet climate targets.
Recent studies have emphasized the insufficiency of IPCC reports regarding the potential of carbon dioxide removal. They have pointed out the risks and consequences of overreliance on carbon dioxide removal, including threats to food security, human rights, and natural ecosystems. These studies call for the scientific community to provide input for the upcoming cycle of IPCC reports and to identify Paris-aligned scenarios that do not exceed sustainability limitations.
Conclusion: Towards a Sustainable Approach to Carbon Dioxide Removal
In conclusion, while carbon dioxide removal methods offer potential solutions to climate change, their sustainability risks need to be carefully evaluated. Overreliance on such techniques could have severe implications for biodiversity, food security, and human rights. Therefore, a balanced, transparent, and sustainable approach to carbon dioxide removal is essential. It is important that the scientific community and policymakers work together to refine the understanding of the mitigation potential of CDR techniques and to develop strategies that do not exceed our planet’s sustainability limits.