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Major funding should be allocated to direct CO2 capture from the air - study

Image credit: reuters

Governments should fund fleets of direct air capture (DAC) systems that remove CO2 directly from the ambient air and sequester it safely underground in order to help mitigate the worst effects of climate change, a study has suggested.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego said that such a program could reverse the rise in global temperature well before 2100, but warned that immediate and sustained investments from governments and firms would be needed to scale up the new technology.

They added that DAC should not be used in isolation but as part of a panoply of climate change policies which include drastic reductions in carbon emissions globally.

The research urges “crisis-level” government funding for DAC, on a par with government spending on wars or pandemics.

“DAC is substantially more expensive than many conventional mitigation measures, but costs could fall as firms gain experience with the technology,” said Ryan Hanna, first author of the study.

“If that happens, politicians could turn to the technology in response to public pressure if conventional mitigation proves politically or economically difficult.”

Currently, atmospheric CO2 concentrations are such that meeting climate goals requires not just preventing new emissions through extensive decarbonisation, but also finding ways to remove historical emissions already in the atmosphere.

“Current pledges to cut global emissions put us on track for about 3°C of warming,” said David G. Victor, study co-author.

“This reality calls for research and action around the politics of emergency response. In times of crisis, such as war or pandemics, many barriers to policy expenditure and implementation are eclipsed by the need to mobilise aggressively.”

The authors said that if an emergency DAC program were to commence in 2025 and receive investment of 1.2-1.9 per cent of global GDP annually, it would remove 2.2-2.3 gigatons of CO2 by the year 2050 and 13-20 gigatons of CO2 by 2075.

Cumulatively, the program would remove between 570-840 gigatons of CO2 from 2025-2100, which falls within the range of CO2 removals that IPCC scenarios suggest will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement targets.

Even with such a massive program underway, the globe would likely still see a temperature rise of 2.4-2.5ºC by the year 2100 without further cuts in global emissions below current trajectories.

Meanwhile, a recent report from the Rocky Mountain Institute and Energy Transitions Commission has outlined the importance of using almost entirely zero-carbon generation to meet electricity demand growth in China.

The report outlines a scenario for 2030 that demonstrates that zero-carbon generation is economically and technologically feasible.

It follows pledges from Chinese President Xi Jinping in September that his country would aim to reach net-zero carbon by 2060.

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