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Potentially airlines could offset their greenhouse gas emissions by paying for carbon sequestration and storage.
Rene Castro Salazar, an assistant director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said that of the 2 billion hectares (almost 5 billion acres) of land around the world that has been degraded by misuse, overgrazing, deforestation and other largely human factors, 900 million hectares could be restored.
Returning that land to pasture, food crops or trees would convert enough carbon into biomass to stabilize emissions of CO2, the biggest greenhouse gas, for 15-20 years, giving the world time to adopt carbon-neutral technologies. “With political will and investment of about $300 billion, it is doable,” Castro Salazar said. We would be “using the least-cost options we have, while waiting for the technologies in energy and transportation to mature and be fully available in the market. It will stabilize the atmospheric changes, the fight against climate change, for 15-20 years. We very much need that.”
A report from the Energy Futures Initiative proposes a $10.7-billion research, development and demonstration program to enable emerging CO2 removal technologies to find new pathways toward quick commercialization. “We need a doubling or tripling of the [existing] energy innovation budget,” he said.
The report follows the 2018 National Academies of Sciences report on negative emissions technology and sequestration, which recommended that CO2 removal be used at a scale of approximately 10 billion metric tons per year globally by 2050, and at 20 billion metric tons thereafter to be able to achieve climate goals.
Technologies addressed in the report go beyond traditional climate adaptation or mitigation strategies, and include direct air capture, CO2 removal from seawater, carbon capture and storage or utilization, and chemically enhanced mineralization. Some direct air capture plants are operating in Canada, Texas and Scandinavia, but their applications so far have been fairly limited.
The 10-year proposed initiative would allocate $1 billion per year to and be overseen by a broad coalition of 12 federal agencies, spearheaded by the Depts. of Energy and Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The funds would be used to determine which of the many emerging technologies would be most effective and could be built to commercial scale quickly. “We think in 10 years, with this kind of focused and significant R&D program, we will see major cost reductions in scalable technologies,” Moniz said.