Is decarbonization a realistic climate solution?

Is decarbonization a realistic climate solution?

360 offers you diverse perspectives on today’s top stories and discussions.

What is happening

Humans have pumped so much carbon into the air that climate experts now believe that even a significant reduction in fossil fuel emissions will not be enough. They say we will also have to have this already in the atmosphere if we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Plants do this naturally, but most scientists say the sheer volume of carbon that must be sucked up from the air means that just planting more trees won’t be enough. This view has led to huge investments in potential technologies that – if proven effective and widely used – could help achieve global climate goals in the coming decades.

In the past few years, huge sums of money have been invested in DAC, a controversial new process that uses giant fans to push air into facilities that use chemical reactions to pull carbon out of the air and store it — either in the ground or redirecting it to create specific products. .

There are currently about 20 DAC plants in operation around the world. Together, they are able to get out of the air annually, a tiny fraction of the 980 million metric tons that will be required each year by 2050, the International Energy Agency estimates.

Last month, the Department of Energy announced a plan to build four new DAC plants in the United States. There were also, including from Google and Facebook, Tesla owner Elon Musk, and a long list of big investment firms.

Why is there a debate?

Despite the dire predictions of what will happen without decarbonization and the potential promises of the technology, there is a deep division among experts over whether Direct Air Capture is a legitimate answer to the world’s climate challenges.

Advocates say that while the industry is still in its infancy, DAC is the only proven way we have to pull carbon from the air needed to meaningfully alter the trajectory of climate change. They point to the huge investment in developing new plants as evidence of a strong desire from both governments and companies to ramp up decarbonization efforts quickly and argue that the process will become significantly more efficient and affordable over time, with more companies joining the industry. Others argue that although there are reasons to doubt that the dreams of DAC optimists can be realized, the climate situation is so dire that we need to put every effort into every solution that seems feasible even from a distance.

But there are many skeptics. Some scientists argue that there are unlikely to be enough DAC plants to make a significant impact on global carbon output — one expert estimated that only in a year. Another problem, they say, is that carbon sequestration may never achieve the level of sustainable investment that other green technologies have, because it does not produce an end product that can be sold for profit.

Others worry that the promise of decarbonization may be used as an excuse to delay the transition from fossil fuels, which is widely seen as the most important step toward limiting climate change. There are also practical concerns about the damage it can do to the environment and vulnerable communities by having hundreds of DAC plants around the world.

Outlook – Perspectives


Decarbonization must be a core component of any plan to achieve our climate goals

“Even when we stop making the problem worse, we will still need to clean up the mess that has been made so far. Environmentally decarbonizing is a powerful tool that can help stop the worst effects of climate change by removing old emissions from the atmosphere.” – Jasmine Sanders,

Decarbonization may fail, but we have no choice but to try

“I don’t think carbon capture is a silver bullet, because there is no magic bullet. … We will need everything, especially because we are already behind in our goals.” – Nadine Mustafa, an energy technology researcher to

The only way to know if DAC stations will work on a large scale is to build them

“The only way to know how these systems perform in practice is to start building them,” said David Victor, a public policy researcher.

Decarbonization will fail if it is controlled by for-profit corporations

“Decarbonizing public spaces is the obvious choice. The federal government can start this transformation now by making sure that any infrastructure built with billions of federal dollars coming out the door is owned either by the government or directly by communities. … We can Collectively build a public, justice and worker-centered model for deploying this critical climate infrastructure.” – Andrew Bergman,


Currently, the business model for decarbonization has not been proven

All these efforts face an acute problem: no one wants to buy these things. Philanthropists and government agencies have long offered awards for various decarbonization standards. And incomplete efforts are underway to convert stored carbon dioxide into something economically useful. However, none of these efforts amount to sustainable business. This, too, may be about to change.” — Editorial,

It is dangerous to assume that decarbonization will work

“I am in favor of it, but only an asshole is betting the planet on it. … The problem is not that technology is bad – it might get better (although there are thermodynamic limits as to how much it can get better). The problem is that policy makers include it in their ‘planning’ “The climate is as if it were already working. This is far from dangerous.” Climate world

Promises to decarbonize the future can be used as an excuse to slow the transition of green energy

“There will be a risk that fossil fuel companies and others will use decarbonization as an imagined way of not changing their business models as long as we don’t have a master plan to end fossil fuels.” — Holly Buck, Environment and Sustainability Researcher, to

Ending fossil fuel consumption is the only proven climate solution right now

“Right now, the only foolproof way to stave off the climate crisis is to prevent pollution in the first place.” – Justin Calma,

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Image source: AFP via Getty Images

2022-06-05 15:01:18

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