Today, the IPCC issued an approved draft of its report on Climate Change and Land. The report outlines the severity of climate impacts on terrestrial ecosystems and makes a strong case that climate change erodes food security. The report also notes that land use (Agriculture, Forestry, and other Land Use: AFOLU) contributes a little less than a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with a little more than half of its contribution in the form of CO2. Fossil fuels remain the dominant driver of climate change. While AFOLU contributes to climate change it is mainly threatened by it, with potentially severe consequences to food production and ecosystem services.
The report also clarifies that land use changes can help but are unable to solve the climate problem. Managing biomass to reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere is feasible but will compete with food production and greatly increase demand for land, while falling far short of the kind of reductions that are needed. Preventing desertification is smart, but it does not lower the greenhouse gas concentration in the air. Pointing to food demand management, i.e., a large-scale shift away from meat, as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reflects a sense of desperation on the part of the authors of the report. It is therefore even more remarkable, that the report, while pointing out that BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage) has its limits, hardly mentions other carbon dioxide reduction options. Indeed, it only mentions those that are land intensive. The report points to dire consequences of climate change, without any good strategy to avoid them.
Therefore, we feel vindicated with our technological approach to climate change. Removing CO2 from the air and from point sources, and storing it safely and permanently, appears to be the only approach that can operate at the necessary scale. Fossil fuel related emissions of CO2 create a waste management problem that can be fixed if the permanent dumping of CO2 into the atmosphere is outlawed. For every ton of carbon extracted from the ground, another ton of carbon will have to be sequestered. Storage capacity exists, and technologies for removing CO2 at point sources and from the air, are at the cusp of commercial availability. Moreover, for every ton of CO2 reaching the atmosphere a ton of CO2 will have to be taken back and be disposed of or recycled. Dealing with excess CO2 will spawn a thriving new industry that creates jobs and revenue. Adding the cost of CO2 removal to fossil fuels, will motivate alternatives, including synthetic liquid fuels made from H2O, CO2 and renewable energy. However, as long as fossil carbon comes out of the ground, its disposal must be mandatory.