Negative carbon

The Economist has posted a concise graph based on data from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) that shows different scenarios of CO2 emissions over time:

Greenhouse-gas emissions are now about 50 gigatonnes of carbon equivalent (GtCO2e). That is 20% higher than they were in 2000 and, worryingly, 11% higher than where emissions need to be in 2020 in order to ensure global temperatures do not rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius (see light red range in chart). If emissions go on rising at their current rate, they will reach 58 GtCO2e in 2020, 14 GtCO2e more than they need to be then (current policy).

This implies that we are already far past our 2020 targets for limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. The only viable solution might therefore be negative carbon; that we actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere. However, one might ask how likely such an outcome is because, as can be seen in the graph, when UNEP projects the best-case scenario based on the most ambitious pledges that countries have made so far, the levels are still way above the 2020 targets.

Simon Hedlin

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