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Climate Change

Atmospheric carbon removal and use need greater research, application, reports say

However, reforestation and enhancing soil uptake would limit land use for food

by Jeff Johnson
October 29, 2018

Two new reports urge greater application of methods to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and more research on carbon use. These areas on their own, however, will not be sufficient to meet global targets for halting climate change, say the reports, which were prepared by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine.

The reports follow a recent study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that says that without swift action the world is on a path to have global temperature rise 1.5 °C by 2030 and 2 °C by 2050, which the panel notes will yield “catastrophic” consequences.

The first National Academies report recommends removing CO2 from the atmosphere through activities such as reforestation and changing forest management and agricultural practices to enhance soil carbon storage. The report also discusses direct carbon capture from the atmosphere.

However, the report also notes that although several of these land-based “negative emissions technologies” are available today, they would limit land for food production and negatively affect biodiversity. Direct carbon capture has great potential but is limited by cost, the report notes.

The second NAS report outlines a research agenda for improving the commercial viability of technologies that turn greenhouse gases from fossil fuels into useful products, such as fuels, construction materials, and chemicals.

Both reports call for substantial government investment in research.

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