What would you give for a chance to reverse global warming? Think on that for a minute. What would you be willing to sacrifice to avert climate change tipping points, irreversible runaway global warming?
Is such a thing even possible? A team of experts from the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden believes that using "surface carbon" for fuel (trees, crop waste, biomass) coupled with a massive programme for carbon capture and sequestration could actually reverse global warming.
The bioenergy and CCS method was the most cost-effective way of tackling carbon emissions, said the team at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, publishing their research in the journal Environmental Research Letters on Thursday. Such an approach could offset and even reverse other emissions from fossil fuels, they claimed.
The lead author of the study, Prof Christian Azar, said it could help bring temperatures down even if they rose above the 2C level that world leaders have agreed to avoid:
"Even if current political gridlock causes global warming in excess of
2C, we can reverse the temperature trend and reach targets later. This
means that 2C targets, or even more ambitious targets, can remain on the
table in international climate negotiations."
He said that to
achieve a reversal of temperatures, the combination of bioenergy and CCS
would need to be combined with a huge expansion in renewable energy
or nuclear power, in order to reduce emissions almost to zero. He also
admitted that there was a political risk that the proposal's ability to
reverse rises at a late stage could be used as an excuse for short-term
inaction on emissions.
It's a fascinating idea, particularly because it could well work, but only if we moved quickly to transition to alternate energy and essentially decarbonize our economies and our societies. We would have to euthanize our fossil fuel industries and wipe their notional vast resources right off the books. Would we be better off for it? Overall, yes, and certainly so for our children and grandchildren. Would the transition be disruptive, economically dislocative? Sure. Does the political and public will needed for such a thing exist? Not a chance.