THE FOLLY OF ‘MAGICAL SOLUTIONS’
But there is barely any public discussion of how to bring about the extra “negative emissions” needed to reduce the stock of CO2
Global levels of carbon emissions have skyrocketed in recent decades. Global emissions from all human activities will reach an all-time record 45 billion tons in 2017, following a projected 2% rise in burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, the study revealed.
Sixty years ago, the world spewed only 9.2 billion tons per year.
TWO years ago the world pledged to keep global warming “well below” 2°C hotter than pre-industrial times. Climate scientists and campaigners purred. Politicians patted themselves on the back
Setting unattainable emissions targets is not a policy — it’s an act of wishful thinking!
A focus on magical solutions leaves little room for the practical. When policy debate detaches from reality, up can become down in a hurry. For climate policy to succeed, it must move beyond magical solutions to those that actually work.
SWEDEN’S parliament passed a law which obliges the country to have “no net emissions” of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2045. It demands that remaining carbon sources are offset with new carbon sinks. In other words greenhouse gases will need to be extracted from the air.
NEGATIVE-EMISSIONS TECHNOLOGY (NET)
What they don’t tell you about climate change
Stopping the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is not enough. It has to be sucked out, too
No scenarios are at all likely to keep warming under 1.5ºC without greenhouse-gas removal.
Climate scientists have been discussing negative-emissions technologies (NETs) with economists and policy wonks since the 1990s. But so far politicians have largely ignored the issue, preferring to focus on curbing current flows of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. NETs were conspicuous by their absence from the agenda of the annual UN climate jamboree which ended in Bonn on November 17, 2017.
Even the less speculative technologies need investment right away. Trees take decades to reach their carbon-sucking potential, so large-scale planting needs to start soon,
To have any hope of doing so, preparations for large-scale extraction ought to begin in the 2020s.
Modelers favor NETs that use plants because they are a tried and true technology. Reforesting logged areas or “afforesting” previously treeless ones presents no great technical challenges.
The problem with forestation and CCS is that the plants involved need a huge amount of land. The area estimated ranges from 3.2m square kilometers (roughly the size of India) to as much as 9.7m square kilometers (roughly the size of Canada). That is the equivalent of between 23% and 68% of the world’s arable land.
Any tree parts left over after lumber and paper-making processes can be dumped into landfills or into disused open cast mines. The carbon fixed by the biological processes which formed the trees could thus be sequestered underground.
THE BIOCHAR SOLUTION OVERLOOKED
In the same way, biochar can be produced, which helps soils absorb and retain more carbon instead of allowing it to dissipate into the air. The biochar system would be incorporated in the tree nursery project in Africa.
Globally, the commonly accepted biochar application rate is 1 to 5 tons per hectare of direct biochar application. This translates to a biochar compost application annual rate of about 2 to 10 tons per hectare.
According to researcher Bruno Glaser at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, a hectare of meter-deep terra preta can hold 250 tons of carbon, as opposed to 100 tons of carbon in unimproved soils.
THAT MEANS THAT THERE IS A POTENTIAL OF 150 TONS OF CARBON CAPTURE/ HA POSSIBLE. (THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE THE FORESTATION ON THE SAME HECTARE)
In addition, the bio-char itself increases soil fertility, which allows farmers to grow more plants, which allows more bio-char to be added to the soil. Johannes Lehman, author of Amazonian Dark Earths, claims that combining bio-char and bio-fuels could draw down 9.5 billion tons per year, or 35 Gt CO2 per year equal to all our current fossil fuel emissions.
SUSTAINABLE BIOCHAR AND GLOBAL WARMING
To demonstrate the effectiveness of massive reforestation, the Black Death in the 1300’s and the catastrophic effects of European diseases on Native American populations resulted in massive reforestation of large parts of the world and contributed to the “little ice age”.
Living Water MicroFinance Inc. can arrange your partnership with an African landlord (who provides a long term lease) and a woman farmer and her family who will manage the 2.5 acre (1 Hectare) farm, which produces 560 fruit and nut trees and 560 tons of CO2 emission capture, which is sequestered over 25 years. Add 150 tons of CO2 emission capture from biochar farming. That adds up to over 700 tons/ha of CO2 emission capture.
Removing 8bn-10bn tons by 2050, as the more sanguine scenarios envisage will require 143,000 km² @ 700tons/ha. which is 5% of India.
Combining bio-char and bio-fuels could draw down 9.5 billion tons per year, or 35 Gt CO2 per year (@ 150 tons/ha of CO2 emission capture).
Add to this the 560 tons/ha of CO2 emission capture from orchard trees over 25 years. This will raise the potential to 35 billion tons per year.
SEVEN BILLION TREES
So far there are only 17 CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) programs big enough to dispose of around 1m tons of carbon dioxide a year. Promoting CCS is an uphill struggle, mainly because it doubles the cost of energy from the dirty power plants whose flues it scrubs.
In 2011 a review by the American Physical Society put extraction costs above $600 per ton, compared with an average estimate of $60-250 per ton for CCS. Removing 8bn-10bn tons by 2050, as the more sanguine scenarios envisage, let alone the 35bn-40bn tons in more pessimistic ones, will be a vast undertaking. For all low-carbon technologies, it puts the figure at $65bn a year until 2050. A chunk of this fund must go toward NET.
One way to create a market for NETs would be for governments to put a price on carbon. Take Norway, which in 1991 told oil firms drilling in the North Sea to capture carbon dioxide from their operations or pay up. This cost is now around $50 per ton emitted.
EVERYTHING AND THE CARBON SINK
Wind power is profitable today as a result of decades of government investment in the United States and Europe. Nobody knows how to get rich simply by removing greenhouse gases. When the need is great, the science is nascent and commercial incentives are missing, the task falls to government and private foundations. But they are falling short.
Subsidies are another option. Without them, renewables would have taken longer to compete with fossil fuels. Governments could offer a reward for every ton of CO2 that is extracted and stored. In theory such a bounty should be paid from a fund bankrolled by countries according to their cumulative historical emissions (top comes America followed by Europe, with China rapidly closing the gap). In practice no mechanism exists to get them to cough up.
Earlier this year Britain’s government became the first to set aside some cash specifically for NETs research. In October America’s Department of Energy announced a series of grants for “novel and enabling” carbon-capture technologies, some of which could help in the development of schemes for direct air capture.
Richard Branson, a British tycoon, has offered $25m to whoever first comes up with a “commercially viable design” that would remove 1bn tonnes of greenhouse gases a year for ten years. Mr Branson’s prize has gone unclaimed for a decade.
The fossil-fuel industry says it is committed to the technology. Total, a French oil giant, has promised to spend a tenth of its $600m research budget on CCS and related technologies. A group of oil majors says it will spend up to $500m on similar projects between now and 2027. But the field’s slow progress to date hardly encourages optimism. Governments’ commitment to CCS has historically proved fickle.
CLIMATE economists refer to it as “the most important number you’ve never heard of”. The social cost of carbon (SCC) tries to capture the cost of an additional ton of carbon-dioxide pollution in a single number—around $47 in present dollars. Using it, more than $1trn worth of benefits has been calculated in economic-impact assessments that accompany environmental regulations. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Trump has developed a new calculations place it anywhere between $1 and $6—a cut of between 87% and 98%.
Agroforestry could help solve Climate Change.
HELPING SOLVE WORLD’S CARBON POLLUTION
New Trees are the only solution to soaking up Carbon Dioxide:
A Full Scale Aquaponic Tree Nursery in Africa supported by: