Most of the world’s countries agreed on a significant new renewable energy push at the UN’s COP28 climate summit over the weekend, but scientists warned that overshooting the 1.5°C threshold — beyond which climate disasters will become more frequent and intense — is now almost “inevitable.”
Why it matters: The findings, published in the annual 10 New Insights in Climate Science report, suggest that cutting emissions alone is no longer enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change — the world will now also need to scale up carbon removal technology.
Our capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will need to more than double by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the report said.
- That will require a major scale-up and deployment of manmade carbon removal technologies, which today only account for 0.1% of carbon removal (with natural sinks, like forests, accounting for the rest).
It currently costs around US$1,000 to remove one ton of CO2 from the atmosphere using direct air capture. According to some estimates, that needs to fall to around US$200 per ton for it to be commercially viable.
- Even if costs fall, scientists caution, carbon removal will have to be coupled with steep emissions reductions to keep temperatures from rising above 2°C by the end of the century.
Zoom out: Despite the grim warnings delivered to COP28, there are some signs of progress, too: The cost of renewable energy is plummeting faster than expected, wind and solar will generate 12% of global electricity this year, and investment in clean energy will nearly double investments in fossil fuels this year.—TS