Geoengineering by 2050

Reuters reported on October 31 that a permissive approach to “overshoot” is a theme emerging from the AR5 report. This thinking proposes that countries can exceed their emissions targets on the risky assumption that new technologies will be invented in the years to come that will mop up excess carbon from the atmosphere. This “pollute now, clean up later” principle is a radical departure. Previous IPCC reports more sensibly recommended reducing emissions enough to keep global levels of atmospheric carbon within safe limits.

BECCS, which is largely a hypothetical technology, is the poster child for this new “overshoot” approach. (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage). The idea behind BECCS is to grow trees and other biomass (which will absorb carbon) and then burn that in special power plants that capture the carbon emissions before they escape into the atmosphere. In this way, energy can theoretically be generated with “net zero” emissions, and even take CO2 out of the atmosphere.

– From the article Will Unicorns Save us from Climate Change? (BECCS won’t.), published by ETC Group, 31 October 2014.

A painting: two astronauts standing in a red-tinged, rocky landscape, near deep gorge.
“Hot Discovery” by Michael Carroll, 2004.