To fight global warming, the UN wants countries to literally suck CO2 out of the air

By Michael Bastasch

While United Nations delegates wrap this year’s climate summit, observers and experts have been coming to terms with an extremely inconvenient implication of meeting the goal of the Paris climate accord.

To meet the accord’s goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 requires technology, the UN is essentially asking countries to literally suck carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

The Economist editorial board explains: “The Paris agreement assumes, in effect, that the world will find ways to suck CO2 out of the air” since “emissions cannot be cut fast enough to keep the total stock of greenhouse gases sufficiently small to limit the rise in temperature successfully.”

So, if you take the UN’s Paris accord projections seriously — and there are good reasons not to — just spending trillions of dollars more on green energy and energy efficiency isn’t enough. Paris accord proponents have tended to downplay this aspect of their global warming goal.

U.S. lawmakers recently heard testimony from geo-engineering proponents who agree with the UN that sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is necessary. The November hearing focused on carbon-sucking technology and stratospheric aerosol injection — literally shooting up particles into the high atmosphere to block sunlight.

Douglas MacMartin of Cornell University told lawmakers that sucking CO2 out of the air “is the only way to achieve net‐negative emissions,” which included “direct air capture” of carbon dioxide. MacMartin also mentioned carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which removes greenhouse gas from fossil fuels when burned for electricity.

President Donald Trump in June pledged to withdraw from the Paris accord, but the administration has said it’s still committed to promoting CCS, natural gas and other forms of energy to lower emissions.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry signed a pledge to promote CCS with International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol. Perry and Birol agreed to “support a renewed push for investment in carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) as an essential part of a clean energy future.”

The U.S. has spent lavishly on CCS technologies, but only one CCS coal project, the Petra Nova plant, is up and running. The Kemper coal plant in Mississippi has a CCS system, but has opted to not use it and burn natural gas instead.

The European Union spent nearly $700 million over the last decade to build carbon capture and storage facilities — none of them were built because officials weren’t able to predict cap-and-trade pricing, news reports found.

There are 17 projects capturing carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion and storing it underground. But even if the world were to miraculously scale-up CCS technology, it would be extremely expensive.

A recent report by former World Bank adviser Gordon Hughes found “the economic analysis of CCS suggests that it is a technology that is both too late and too expensive in its current form.”

However, those who want to meet the Paris accord goals also suggest sucking carbon dioxide right out of the air. Sounds feasible, but The Economist brought up good points about why this technology may not work out.

“Direct air capture and enhanced weathering use less land, but both are costlier,” the editorial board wrote. “Though renewable energy could profitably generate a fair share of the world’s electricity, nobody knows how to get rich simply by removing greenhouse gases.”

In essence, you’d need a system of subsidies, carbon tax or cap-and-trade system to get businesses to suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to make it economical.

Higher energy prices aside, the next question becomes, where do you store it? And, is it safe to store carbon dioxide underground for long periods of time? How would all this be regulated?

Then there’s the biggest question of them all: At what level do we keep atmospheric concentrations of CO2?

These are all questions Paris accord proponents have to answer.

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Image courtesy of HjalmarGerbig/Wikimedia Commons
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5 thoughts on “To fight global warming, the UN wants countries to literally suck CO2 out of the air

  1. Carbon capture and storage projects have been expensive failures wherever they have been tried.
    We are talking about tens of billions of metric tons of CO2 per YEAR.
    Vermont emits 8.3 milion MT/y. It is not even with talking about.

    1) The IPCC assumes emission reductions for each year after 2030, to ultimately achieve ZERO emissions by about 2080 to achieve 1.5 C by 2100.

    This would require sequestration of CO2 on a huge scale. Wherever sequestration demonstration plants were built during the past 15 years, all ended up as expensive failures.

    2) COP21 is a non-binding agreement, which aims to limit the world temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level (the 1861 – 1880 period) by 2100. By 2015, the increase was about 1.0 C above pre-industrial. That leaves just 1.0 C to go by 2100, if a 2 C increase is the limit, or 0.5 C, if a 1.5 C increase is the limit.

    This may appear minor, but it is not, because the BAU CO2eq trajectory points to higher temperature increases by 2100. See The Emissions Gap Report 2017”

    1) The world CO2eq, all sources, including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), per IPCC. There has been a reduction in the rate of increase of emissions during the past few years. The IPCC BAU CO2eq projection for 2030 is based on a higher growth rate than the actuals in 2015 and 2016. See URL.
    http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/summary-of-world-co2eq-emissions-all-sources-and-energy-related

    2) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, are on a “business as usual” trajectory to become about 64.7 b Mt by 2030. If so, the increase above pre-industrial would be about 4.3 C by 2100.

    Current world investments in RE systems of about $280 b/y, which have been about the same for the 2011 – 2016 period (6 years), likely would lead to emissions of about 64.7 b Mt by 2030. China has spent about $80 b/y during the past 3 years to finally deal with its horrendous pollution problems.

    3) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 58.9 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of all policies and pledges made prior to COP21. If so, the increase would be about 3.7 C by 2100. Investments of at least $600 b/y, starting immediately, would be required to achieve the IPCC trajectory of 58.9 b Mt by 2030. See note 1.

    4) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 55.2 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of UNCONDITIONAL COP21 pledges by 2030, per IPCC. If so, the increase would be about 3.2 C by 2100.

    5) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 52.8 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of CONDITIONAL COP21 pledges by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 3.0 C by 2100.

    6) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 41.8 b Mt by 2030, with an ADDITIONAL 52.8 – 41.8 = 11.0 b Mt of CO2eq emissions reduction by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 2.0 C by 2100. That additional reduction is not trivial, as it is equivalent to about 11 times the total annual emissions of the entire EU28 transportation sector.

    7) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 36.5 b Mt by 2030, with an ADDITIONAL 52.8 – 36.5 = 16.3 b Mt of CO2eq emissions reduction by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 1.5 C by 2100. Investments of at least $1.5 trillion/y, starting immediately, would be required to achieve the IPCC trajectory of 36.5 b Mt by 2030.

    NOTE 1: Item 3 is a big if, because since COP1 (Kyoto in 1990), all major developed nations have failed to fully implement all policies and pledges they made to decrease CO2eq emissions.
    http://www.nature.com/news/prove-paris-was-more-than-paper-promises-1.22378

    NOTE 2: The emission reduction would become about 1.0 b Mt less, due to the US withdrawal from COP21, which means other nations would have to make up the difference, not only regarding emission reduction, but also regarding the anticipated US contribution to the Green Climate Fund, about $25 b in 2020, and much greater annual amounts thereafter. China and India, major polluters and claiming “developing nation status”, would not pay a dime.

  2. Hasn’t it become painfully obvious that these people are insane? Seriously!!!! And the idiots that swallow this garbage, are to a man (or woman) Democrats! Why would anybody with a brain vote for Democrats??

  3. Is this the new “Kill Every Living Thing” initiative from the elite of the World? Does anyone have any idea how corrosive oxygen is? Let us place them under a bell jar and evacuate all the CO2, giving them all the O2 they want. See how long they last.

    They must have fallen out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down. You can always tell a Progressive, but you can’t tell them much.

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