By Brad Plumer, Oct. 24, 2018, 25 comments
WASHINGTON — With time running out to avoid dangerous global warming, the nation’s leading scientific body on Wednesday urged the federal government to begin a research program focused on developing technologies that can remove vast quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in order to help slow climate change.
The 369-page report, written by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, underscores an important shift. For decades, experts said that nations could prevent large temperature increases mainly by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and moving to cleaner sources like solar, wind and nuclear power.
But at this point, nations have delayed so long in cutting their carbon dioxide emissions that even a breakneck shift toward clean energy would most likely not be enough. According to a landmark scientific report issued by the United Nations this month, taking out a big chunk of the carbon dioxide already loaded into the atmosphere may be necessary to avoid significant further warming, even though researchers haven’t yet figured out how to do so economically, or at sufficient scale.
And we’ll have to do it fast. To meet the climate goals laid out under the Paris Agreement, humanity may have to start removing around 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year by midcentury, in addition to reducing industrial emissions, said Stephen W. Pacala, a Princeton climate scientist who led the panel. That’s nearly as much carbon as all the world’s forests and soils currently absorb each year.
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