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New Carbon Capture Technology Now Able To Fight Climate Change: Experts

While the U.S. federal government may have other priorities, U.S. states, cities, corporations and other countries around the world are investing in fighting climate change.

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Climate change, carbon
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows yellow-cedar trees growing along Sheep Lake east of the Cascade crest in Washington State. Adding and restoring forests is a cheap way to get substantial amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, a new report says. VOA
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Four cost-effective methods are ready today to remove substantial amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, according to a new report from a panel of top scientists.

All four take advantage of nature’s ability to take carbon from the air and store it.

However, fully implementing all of them still would not be enough to prevent potentially catastrophic levels of global warming, according to the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Nearly all nations have signed on to the Paris climate agreement, which pledges to keep global warming to less than a global average of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and ideally below 1.5 degrees.

Climate change, carbon
Traffic moves as smoke emits from the chimney of a factory on the outskirts of Gauhati, India. VOA

Emissions from burning fossil fuels and other sources have already warmed the planet about 1 degree. At the current pace, temperatures will likely top 1.5 degrees by mid-century, according to the latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Zero emissions technologies such as wind farms and solar panels will not be enough to stop global warming, the U.N. report says. Negative emissions technologies will be needed as well.

Trees are tops

The National Academies panel looked at existing strategies for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and found four that are ready for widespread use.

The first is among the most tried-and-true: planting trees.

Climate change, carbon
The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory stands in Sebastiao do Uatuma located in the Amazon rain forest in Brazil’s Amazonas state, Aug. 22, 2015. The tower, built by Brazilian and German governments, collects data on greenhouse gases. VOA

“It’s even kind of a misnomer to call it a technology,” said Princeton University biologist Stephen Pacala, who chaired the panel.

Adding and restoring forests, plus better management of existing forests, are the two cheapest ways to get substantial amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, the report says.

Farm and ranch lands offer the next biggest and cheapest CO2 removal strategies.

Overused soils lose carbon, as well as nutrients. Rebuilding them increases their fertility and water-holding capacity.

“And you get a negative emission because the carbon comes from the atmosphere,” Pacala said.

“We know how to do quite a bit of this,” he added, with soil conservation techniques that began after the 1930s Dust Bowl in the U.S. Great Plains.

Amazon, Climate, carbon
This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows a deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil’s northern state of Para.. VOA

The fourth ready-to-go approach, the report says, is known as biomass energy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS. It generally involves burning or fermenting some kind of plant matter to produce electricity, fuel or heat, then capturing and storing the carbon emissions in underground sinks or elsewhere.

The report says BECCS has the biggest CO2 removal potential of the four but is also the most costly.

Big gap

Applied worldwide, these techniques together have the potential to pull up to 10 gigatons of CO2 out of the atmosphere per year.

The world emits about 50 gigatons per year.

Climate, Carbon removal
A facility for capturing CO2 from air of Swiss Climeworks AG is placed on the roof of a waste incinerating plant in Hinwil, Switzerland, July 18, 2017. VOA

The authors note that devoting more land to CO2 removal would mean diverting land needed to produce food and clothing.

For example, they say removing 10 gigatons of CO2 by BECCS alone would consume nearly 40 percent of the world’s cropland.

Even 10 gigatons of CO2 removal is extremely optimistic, the authors note. It assumes all the strategies are used to their fullest extent everywhere.

The panel also considered emerging technology that captures carbon dioxide directly from the air.

Currently, it is too expensive to be practical. But if the costs come down, Pacala said, it “would have essentially unlimited capacity to remove carbon.”

Climate, Carbon removal
The research has been conducted by C40 Cities, The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and the NewClimate Institute. VOA

Another promising approach would take advantage of the ability of certain naturally occurring minerals to react with CO2 and lock it up. But the authors say the fundamentals are poorly understood.

Also Read: A Warmer Winter For The US Due To El-Nino And Climate Change

The report outlines a detailed research agenda to maximize all of the strategies. It notes that while the U.S. federal government may have other priorities, U.S. states, cities, corporations and other countries around the world are investing in fighting climate change. The country where the tools are developed stands to gain an economic boost, it says. (VOA)

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Climate Change To Get Worse In The Future: Study

The real change to mitigate climate change through gradual cutting of emissions will come from the public.

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Drought, Climate change
A farmer stands on cracked earth that three weeks earlier created the bottom of a reservoir on his farm, in Groot Marico, South Africa. VOA

A new report has taken the results of thousands of papers on the impacts of climate change and put them together into a giant assessment detailing the multiple ways that climate change will impact humanity in the coming century.

Lead researcher Camilo Mora says the report shows what he calls a “massive domino effect” of bad news as climate change intensifies in the coming century if the world doesn’t mitigate the amount of carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere.

In the report being published Monday in Nature Climate Change, Mora says there is literally no place on the planet that’s safe.

Putting all the data in one place

The study is unique in that it doesn’t produce any new information, but is basically a mother of all spreadsheets that takes all of the predicted effects of climate change and puts them into one place.

Hurricane, climate change
Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, VOA

Mora told VOA he and his team of dozens of researchers spent six months gathering and inputting data on climate change into their system and watching how all of these impacts would affect individual sites around the world.

What they came up with was exactly 467 ways that climate change is going to negatively impact the weather, from localized changes like more droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, and storms, to the global changes like sea level rise, and changes in ocean chemistry.

Mora also looked at how climate change is expected to impact everything from food supplies, to increased susceptibility to disease, as well as more difficult to gauge effects like climate insecurity’s impact on mental health.

What he found was surprising, “I couldn’t stop being mind blown every single day,” he told VOA, mainly by the fact that the dangerous and damaging effects of climate change are already impacting humans all over the globe. “We think this is going to happen later,” he says, “but we found that this is already happening.”

“Last year, for instance, Florida recorded extreme drought, record high temperatures, over 100 wildfires, and the strongest ever recorded hurricane in its Panhandle: the category 4 Hurricane Michael,” Mora says. “Likewise, California is currently experiencing ferocious wild fires and one of the longest droughts, plus extreme heatwaves this past summer.”

Australia, Meat free,Hurricane, climate change
Tire tracks left by a truck can be seen in a drought-stricken paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

And he says if carbon levels in the atmosphere continue to increase on pace there will no place on earth that isn’t affected.

Take New York, for instance. Mora lays out a future scenario in which in 2100 New York will be constantly dealing with the potentially devastating effects of four different climate hazards, including extreme weather and sea level rise.

All of these effects are measurable and in the future a city like Miami might be dealing with drought, extreme heat, sea level rise and more numerous and more powerful hurricanes. “Any coastal area in the tropics is going to be on fire” Mora says. Sydney, Los Angeles, Brazil and Mexico City are all at risk as the effects of climate change stack up.”

Mora’s study is impressive in its detail, noting, “Planes can’t fly during heat waves … wires short circuit during heat waves,” Mora says. And for people who work outdoors it can literally get too hot and “their livelihoods depend on their job ability to work out doors.”

All of these impacts add up and have a profound economic effect. Mora says they create stressed communities that have less economic ability to deal with change, plus higher financial costs thanks to the infrastructure damage and repair associated with predicted extreme weather events.

Australia, Meat free,Hurricane, climate change
A tree art installation made up of individual trees and Hydrangeas is seen in front of the U.S. Capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 22, 2018, to celebrate Earth Day and promote the planting of trees in an effort to combat climate change. VOA

Is it too late?

But despite all of the bad news in this assessment, Mora is bullish on our ability to head off the effects of climate change.

“This is not game over,” he says. “We are not too late to turn this around and we have pathways to reduce emissions what we need to do is implement them.”

Mora says the solution to the world’s carbon problem will not come from the world’s leaders, despite agreements like the Paris Accord for which hundreds of the world’s leaders came together to commit to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Also Read: Australia’s PM Abandons Plan To Enshrine Carbon Emission Cuts

He says the real change to mitigate climate change through gradual cutting of emissions will come from the public, and he points to efforts like Hawaii’s decision to become a carbon neutral state by 2045 and to shift to 100 percent renewable energy.

Mora is also involved with tree planting efforts in Hawaii that he says if done worldwide could help the planet actually remove carbon from the atmosphere, not just stop putting it in. He calls it one of “many simple steps to clean our footprint all together.” (VOA)