PerspectiveClimate

Rightsizing carbon dioxide removal

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Science  19 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6339, pp. 706-707
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9726

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Summary

Proven approaches for limiting climate change include enhancing energy efficiency, capturing wind and solar energy, decreasing deforestation, and reducing industrial and agricultural emissions. These approaches are increasingly cost-competitive, consistent with large-scale use, and largely supported by public sentiment. Yet, the current pace of their deployment is far from sufficient for holding warming well below 2°C above preindustrial levels with high probability, the goal of the Paris Agreement. Two approaches for bridging this gap are widely discussed. First, the rate of decarbonization could be accelerated based on the above approaches. Second, continuing emissions could be compensated by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (1, 2). Technologies for carbon removal are mostly in their infancy, yet are increasingly asserted as key to climate policy. Here, we focus on rightsizing the expectations from carbon dioxide removal (CDR).