Managing Global Negative Emissions Technologies


Recently, the Earth’s CO2 level has surpassed 400ppm, which is the highest level in our history since the Pliocene. It thus appears that we are indeed steering towards an overshoot before stabilizing at ppm levels allowing us to restrict global warming to 2? above pre-industrial levels. How can this stabilization still be achieved? One core ingredient in the mitigation mix are negative emissions (NE)—explicitly put forth as an option also by the recent AR5—mostly based on carbon-neutral bioenergy (due to the same amount being sequestered by feedstock growth as being emitted when combusting biomass for energy generation) combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), which in addition captures CO2 during the energy production phase. But also other options are discussed including large-scale afforestation and soil carbon sequestration. Yet, while having long appeared to be an attractive option for climate management, many uncertainties remain—both socio-economically/technologically and on part of the climate science.

Research Focus

Together with the Global Carbon Project, our team has established a research initiative towards this end. While the focus was initially on establishing the research agenda (Fuss et al. 2014), recent work has been examining the biophysical limitations of different negative emissions technologies, covering not only BECCS, but also afforestation, enhanced weathering and direct air capture (Smith et al. 2015). Currently, efforts are concentrated on extending this analysis to non-climate goals.

Relevant Material

Pete Smith, Steven J. Davis, Felix Creutzig, Sabine Fuss, Jan Minx, Benoit Gabrielle, Etsushi Kato, Robert B. Jackson, Annette Cowie, Elmar Kriegler, Detlef P. van Vuuren, Joeri Rogelj, Philippe Ciais, Jennifer Milne, Josep G. Canadell David McCollum, Glen Peters, Robbie Andrew, Volker Krey, Gyami Shrestha, Pierre Friedlingstein, Thomas Gasser, Arnulf Grübler, Wolfgang K. Heidug, Matthias Jonas, Chris D. Jones, Florian Kraxner, Emma Littleton, Jason Lowe, José Roberto Moreira, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Michael Obersteiner, Anand Patwardhan, Mathis Rogner, Ed Rubin, Ayyoob Sharifi, Asbjørn Torvanger, Yoshiki Yamagata, Jae Edmonds and Cho Yongsung (2015), Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions, Nature Climate Change

Sabine Fuss, Josep G. Canadell, Glen P. Peters, Massimo Tavoni, Robbie M. Andrew, Philippe Ciais, Robert B. Jackson, Chris D. Jones, Florian Kraxner, Nebosja Nakicenovic, Corinne Le Quéré, Michael R. Raupach, Ayyoob Sharifi, Pete Smith and Yoshiki Yamagata (2014), Betting on Negative Emissions, Nature Climate Change


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