A new study calls for stepping up efforts, including accelerated deployment of technologies for capturing atmospheric carbon and storing it underground, and sustained growth in renewables such as wind and solar, to reduce greenhouse gases.
The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, warns that without these efforts, the world could miss a key global temperature target set by the Paris Agreement, a 2015 United Nations convention that aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, and the long-term goal of net-zero climate pollution.
“The good news is that fossil fuel emissions have been flat for three years in a row,” said Robert Jackson, chair of the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, who worked with his colleagues and developed a nested family of metrics that can be used to track different national emissions pledges and thus global progress toward the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
“Now we need actual reductions in global emissions and careful tracking of emission pledges and country-level statistics,” Jackson was quoted as saying in a news release from the university in Northern California on the U.S. West Coast.
The researchers found that global carbon dioxide emissions have remained steady at around 36 gigatons of carbon dioxide for the third year in a row in 2016.
“The rapid deployment of wind and solar is starting to have an effect globally, and in key players such as China, the U.S. and the European Union,” said Glen Peters, senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO) and lead author for the study. “The challenge is to substantially accelerate the new additions of wind and solar, and find solutions for effectively integrating these into existing electricity networks.”
However, wind and solar alone won’t be sufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Looking to the future, the researchers predict that the greatest challenge to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is the slower than expected rollout of carbon capture and storage technologies. Most scenarios suggest the need for thousands of facilities with carbon capture and storage by 2030, the researchers say, far below the tens that are currently proposed.
Jackson noted that carbon capture and storage technology will prove even more crucial if U.S. President Donald Trump follows through with his campaign pledge of resuscitating the nation’s struggling coal industry.
“There’s no way to reduce the carbon emissions associated with coal without carbon capture and storage,” Jackson said.