Arquivo da tag: Descarbonização

‘You Need a Yes on All of Those Levels’ — Experts Discuss the Future of Ocean-Based Carbon Removal Research (NASEM)

Feature Story | February 11, 2022

By Megan Lowry

Imagine an ocean enabled to help solve one of society’s biggest threats: carbon dioxide. In one proposed scenario, a system of pipes and pumps would move water from the surface to the deep ocean. In another, massive seaweed farms would dot the coastlines. And in yet another, nutrients sprinkled on the ocean surface would encourage the growth of photosynthesizing plankton. Each of these are part of a set of proposed — albeit still largely theoretical — strategies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere using the ocean.

Covering 70 percent of the world’s surface, the ocean is what researchers call a natural carbon sink. Through photosynthesis, currents, and other natural processes, the ocean and its plants and marine life pull CO2 from the air, which is then eventually stored in the deepest parts of the sea. As the world seeks to meet net-zero emissions goals and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, some have proposed interventions like those described above to capture CO2.

A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report released late last year calls for a $125 million research program to explore six different nascent ocean-based CO2 removal strategies — and to help society gain a greater understanding of their risks, benefits, and potential impacts.

But these proposals to change ocean processes are not without controversy and debate. A recent National Academies webinar explored the most pressing social questions around ocean CO2 removal.

“Messing about with the oceans” is something that always raises a strong public response, said Nick Pidgeon, professor of environmental psychology and risk and director of the Understanding Risk Research Group at Cardiff University. “They just don’t like the feel of this. It just doesn’t seem right.”

“People value the ocean. It’s often seen as a wild space,” added Holly Buck, assistant professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo and member of the committee that wrote the 2021 National Academies report. “People are concerned about it being industrialized or tampered with.”

Some of the potential risks of ocean-based CO2 removal identified in the National Academies report include unintended environmental effects — for example, mass seaweed farming could trigger unpredictable and unwanted changes to local ecosystems, and artificial upwelling and downwelling of water could change ocean surface temperatures. There’s also risk in these strategies failing to work after investing time and resources, risk in scaling them to the level needed to significantly impact atmospheric CO2, and the risk that any efficacy they could have won’t last. 

One particular point of contention is the worry that developing the ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere on a mass scale might slow progress in reducing carbon emissions in the first place. “There’s opposition to carbon removal generally … because people are concerned that it might delay or deter mitigation,” said Pidgeon.

Ocean-based CO2 removal approaches explored in the National Academies’ report

Ocean-based CO2 removal approaches explored in the National Academies’ report

“It’s absolutely clear that in order to meet our targets, we are likely to need some form of carbon removal.”

But even with significant reductions to carbon emissions, “it’s absolutely clear that in order to meet our targets, we are likely to need some form of carbon removal,” said Pidgeon.

“There may be a point in time where the harm from climate change may outweigh those risks [of ocean-based carbon removal],” added Buck. “It’s very hard to say anything about that, given our low level of information.”

Research recommended by the National Academies report could shed more light on these risks and trade-offs, and enable more informed decision-making in climate policy. Buck emphasized that now is the time for researchers to be creating this knowledge: “We should be finding this out sooner rather than later.”

Buck said that it’s important for the public to be involved in any research that moves forward. Pidgeon agreed. “You have to engage them very early,” he said. “That’s one of the lessons that have been learned from other technologies … that have encountered extreme opposition. If you don’t bring people in early, they’re likely to find out at the wrong time and get very frustrated.”

To incorporate community views and ethical considerations into their work, Pidgeon said researchers can look to parallel scientific issues in which there is public contention and debate, such as nuclear waste disposal or human health. 

“A good example might be human embryo technology,” said Pidgeon. “In the U.K., we have a panel of ethicists and lay citizens and others who are given these particular conundrums to wrestle with, when the scientists come up with research proposals in potentially controversial areas.” He added, “We need to learn from some of those other experiences if we are to take forward this technology.”

Keeping the public involved in research also means “you may identify ways in which the science has to change.”

Bringing non-scientists into the research can also help illuminate which aspects of ocean-based carbon removal are truly relevant and most important to a community. “As scientists, we tend to think about an issue in a certain way,” said Pidgeon. “And that may not relate to what really matters to someone in a coastal community.” Keeping the public involved in research also means “you may identify ways in which the science has to change.”

Given the urgent and immediate impacts of climate change being felt around the world, one attendee asked if scientists truly have time for careful research that includes the public. Buck replied, “We do, and there’s huge risks to not doing it, because we want to set up a system that’s going to work.”

“You need a yes on all of those levels,” said Pidgeon. “You need your ethics board to say yes. You need the general conversation at the citizen level to say yes. And you need the local community’s consent as well.”

One policy accounts for a lot of the decarbonisation in Joe Biden’s climate plans (The Economist)

As Democrats trim the legislation, they should focus on keeping it

Oct 12th 2021

TAKE A ROAD TRIP to Indianapolis, home to a certain two-and-a-half-mile race track, and you will find yourself in good company. A survey carried out before the pandemic found that about 85% of local commuters drive to work, alone. Standing on a bridge over 38th Street, which runs by the state fairground, you cannot escape the roar of six lanes of petrol-fired traffic below—and, reports a local, this is quiet compared with the noise on pre-virus days. Getting Americans to kick their addiction to fossil fuels will require many of these drivers to find another way of getting to work, and to move on from the flaming hydrocarbons celebrated at the city’s famous oval.

Joe Biden hopes to use what looks like a narrow window of Democratic control of Congress to encourage this transition. The last time lawmakers came close to writing climate legislation on anything like this scale was in 2009, when the Waxman-Markey bill, which would have established a trading system for greenhouse-gas emissions, was passed by the House. Since then, a Democratic White House has tried to nudge America to reduce emissions, by issuing new regulations, and a Republican White House has tried to undo them. That record illustrates what a delicate operation this is. Yet despite having a much weaker grip on Congress than Barack Obama had in the first year of his presidency, Mr Biden and his legislative allies have put forward a sweeping set of proposals for decarbonising America’s economy. These would promote everything from clean energy on the grid and electric vehicles on the road, to union jobs making green technologies and climate justice for left-behind communities.

Were this wish list passed in its entirety, which is unlikely, it would give a boost to Mr Biden’s pledge to reduce America’s emissions by roughly half from their 2005 level by 2030. A chart released by the office of Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s majority leader, suggests that implementing all of these provisions could reduce America’s emissions by 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, thus achieving almost all of Mr Biden’s goal of cutting them by roughly half in that period (see chart 1). Passing a law, even a less expansive one, would allow Mr Biden to travel to the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November representing a country that is making progress towards internationally agreed goals, rather than asking for the patience of poorer, less technologically sophisticated countries while America sorts itself out.

Some of the Democratic proposals are in a $1trn infrastructure bill with bipartisan support. But most are found in a $3.5trn budget bill that, on account of Senate rules, can only pass through a partisan parliamentary manoeuvre known as reconciliation. This requires the assent of all 50 Democratic senators. The likeliest outcome is a compromise between Democratic progressives and moderates that yokes together the agreed infrastructure bill with a much slimmer version of the $3.5trn proposal. Yet it is possible that neither bill will become law.

This raises two questions. First, how good on climate can a salami-sliced version of Mr Biden’s agenda, the result of a negotiation between 270 Democratic members of Congress each angling for their constituents’ interests, really be? Second, how bad would it be for America’s decarbonisation efforts were both bills to fail?

Happily even reconciliation-lite could bring meaningful progress if key bits of the current proposals survive the negotiations. Paul Bledsoe of the Progressive Policy Institute, a think-tank, is confident a deal “likely a bit under $2trn” will happen this month. The Rhodium Group, an analysis firm, reckons that just six proposals would cut America’s emissions by nearly 1bn tonnes in 2030 compared with no new policies (see chart 2), about a sixth of America’s total net emissions per year. That is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions from all cars and pickup trucks on American roads, or the emissions of Florida and Texas combined. The six include proposals related to “natural carbon removal” (which involves spending on forests and soil), fossil fuels (making it more expensive to emit methane) and transport (a generous credit for buyers of electric vehicles).

The big prize, though, is the power sector. Two proposals for decarbonising the grid account for the lion’s share of likely emissions reductions: a new Clean Electricity Performance Programme (CEPP) and more mundane reforms to the tax credits received by clean energy. The CEPP has been touted by Mr Biden’s cabinet officials and leading progressives as a linchpin of the climate effort. It is loosely based on the mandatory clean electricity standards imposed by over two dozen states which have successfully boosted adoption of low-carbon energy.

The CEPP is flawed in a couple of ways, though. Because it has to be primarily a fiscal measure in order to squeeze through the reconciliation process it does not involve mandatory regulation, unlike those successful state energy standards. Rather, it uses (biggish) subsidies and (rather punier) penalty fees to try to nudge utilities to build more clean energy. It is politically vulnerable because it is seen as unfriendly to natural gas and coal (unless they have expensive add-on kit to capture and store related emissions). That has incurred the hostility of Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents coal-rich West Virginia, without whose approval the bill will fail. Some influential utility companies with coal assets, including Ohio-based American Electric Power, do not like it either.

Despite the attention paid to it, CEPP is actually less potent as a greenhouse-gas slayer than those boring tax credits, which are less controversial because they do not overtly penalise coal or gas. Two energy veterans, one at a top renewables lobbying outfit and the other at a fossil-heavy utility, agree that the tax credits would sharply boost investment in low-carbon technologies. That is because they improve the current set-up by replacing stop-go uncertainty with a predictable long-term tax regime, and make tax breaks “refundable” rather than needing to be offset against tax liabilities, meaning even utilities that do not have such tax liabilities can enjoy them as freely as cash in the bank.

Thus the obsession over the CEPP is overshadowing the real star proposal. The tax credits have “a huge impact potentially”, reckons Rhodium, accounting for over one-quarter of the greenhouse-gas emissions reductions in the legislation, at a cost of roughly $150bn over ten years. A former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts it bluntly: “Take the wind and solar tax credits at ten years if you had to choose—and let everything else go.”

What if Democrats fail, the negotiations fall apart and Mr Biden is left empty handed? That would be embarrassing. And it would perhaps make it difficult to pursue ambitious federal climate policies through Congress for years, just as the failure of Waxman-Markey in 2009 haunted lawmakers. However it would not mean America can do nothing at all about climate change.
First of all, as Mr Biden’s officials have already made clear, they stand ready to use regulations to push ahead on decarbonisation efforts, just as the Obama administration did. Last month the EPA issued rules cracking-down on emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, an especially powerful greenhouse gas. The administration also has plans for loan guarantees for energy innovations and for speeding-up approvals for offshore wind farms. Yet this is tinkering compared with the federal law being discussed, especially as new regulations will likely encounter legal challenges.

Even if the federal government fails again, states and cities have climate policies too. Drawing on analysis funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Leon Clarke of the University of Maryland calculates that decentralised policies emulating the current best efforts of states like California could achieve roughly one-quarter of Mr Biden’s objective. But this is a bad deal: such efforts would fall a long way short of the federal proposal in terms of emissions reduction, and what reductions they achieve would be more expensive than if done at the federal level. Still, it is not nothing. Last month, Illinois passed the country’s boldest climate-change law. Democratic states such as New York and California have green policies, but Republican states such as Texas and Indiana have big wind industries too.

While Mr Clarke says Congress has to act if America is to achieve Mr Biden’s targets, he believes that progress will continue even if Congress falters, because there is now a deeper sense of ownership of climate policy among local and state governments. “The Trump years really changed the way that subnationals in the US view climate action,” he says. “They can’t rely on the federal government.”

Change is happening in surprising places. Take that flyover in Indianapolis. The city’s officials have made it into a bike path that will be connected to 55 miles of commuter-friendly trails traversing the city. $100m has been allocated for building a bus-rapid transit system, which is a cheap and efficient substitute for underground rail, with more such rapid bus lines on the cards. Bloated 38th Street will undergo a “lane diet” with car and lorry traffic yielding two lanes to the buses. Come back in a few years and the view from the bridge will be quieter.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to G7 ‘decarbonization’ by 2100 (CBC News)

Canada, Japan work behind scenes to water down statement on climate change, CP reports

CBC News Posted: Jun 08, 2015 11:02 AM ET Last Updated: Jun 08, 2015 2:47 PM ET

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes his place for the official family photo with outreach partners at the G7 Summit in Garmisch, Germany, on Monday.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes his place for the official family photo with outreach partners at the G7 Summit in Garmisch, Germany, on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to a G7 commitment to deep cuts in carbon emissions by 2050 — with an eventual stop in the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century.

The call for a low-carbon footprint will “require a transformation in our energy sectors,” Harper said Monday at a news conference in Germany, following the two-day G7 summit.

“Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights,” he said. “We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon emitting sources of energy — and that work is ongoing.”

RAW: Harper says G7 unanimous on environment1:47

Canada and Japan blocked attempts at a stronger statement on binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to The Canadian Press sources who saw a working draft of the G7 communiqué, which was released today as the summit wrapped up.

“Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights.”–  Prime Minister Stephen Harper

“We emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century,” the G7 leaders said in their final communiqué.

“We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavour.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been pushing the G7 to endorse a pledge to reach zero carbon emissions.

“Canada and Japan are the most concerned about this one,” said one source who was privy to discussions but would only speak on the condition of anonymity. “The two of those countries have been the most difficult on every issue on climate.”

During question period on Monday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the government’s role in “toning down” the communiqué leaves “Canada with an environmental black eye on the world stage.”

In May, Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — an ambitious goal that will rely on emission targets previously announced by the provinces.

‘Groundbreaking’ agreement

The G7 commitment comes in the midst of a United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, and ahead of a more major one in Paris in December that hopes to negotiate a new, post-2020 global climate agreement.

Members of the Climate Action Network, an international coalition of more than 850 organizations, called the G7 agreement a “groundbreaking” one that will help push forward the new global agreement.

“The course is right, but more speed, ambition and specific actions are needed,” Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, said in a statement.

“The course is right, but more speed, ambition and specific actions are needed.”– Samantha Smith, WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative

“Developing countries are ready to move fast and far on renewables, but they need finance and technology from rich countries to do it. We need to see more of these concrete commitments for immediate action.”

Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement that the agreement is a sign that “the end of the fossil fuel era is inevitable, and the dawning of the age of renewables is unstoppable.

“Now G7 countries must increase the ambition of their domestic climate plans, so as to do their fair share of meeting this global goal.”

Harper slams Putin at G7

The two-day G7 summit in the Bavarian alps touched on various international issues, including the global economic recovery, fighting terrorism and its financing, as well as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The G7 — which includes the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, as well as the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission — was formerly the G8 until Russia was suspended last year over its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.

Harper described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a disruptive force whose former role in the organization inhibited co-operation.

“Mr. Putin makes it his business to be deliberately troublesome,” he said.

While there may be cases in which G7 countries have to deal with Putin “because Russia remains an important country on some issues,” Harper emphasized that Putin does not share the values of G7 members.

“The G7 is a group of countries that share fundamental values and objectives in the world. We share similar types of economies so we share similar problems. We also share similar values — deep, progressive and aggressive commitments towards democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

“Mr. Putin fits none of these definitions.”