Extracting Greenhouse Gases From The Air MIght Be Necessary To Slow Global Warming

By Rhonda J. Miller on January 18, 2014 7:31 PM EST

Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Governments around the world may have to extract greenhouse gases from the air to meet the limitations required to slow global warming. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Rhonda J. Miller)

To slow the pace of global warming, governments around the world may have to extract greenhouse gases from the air, according to the draft of a United Nations report on climate change obtained by Reuters. International leaders are not taking adequate steps to meet the goal of limiting global warming to below two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, from pre-industrial levels, which is considered the threshold for rising sea level, floods, droughts, and heat waves, the report said. Temperatures have already risen by 0.8C, or 1.4 F, since the Industrial Revolution.

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The increasing use of technologies to remove carbon from the air, including capturing and burying emissions, may be necessary by the year 2100, along with trillions of dollars in investments for clean energy, to meet the international goals for limiting climate change. The draft report is to be edited by the International Panel on Climate Change and published in April, Reuters reported. It is the third in a series of scientific updates since 2007 done by the IPCC. Even though nations around the world have agreed to reach a U.N. agreement on climate change by 2015 that would go into effect in 2020, progress has been slow.

The two-week long U.N. Climate Summit in Warsaw, Poland, also known as the Conference of Parties, in November 2013, for instance, was marked by bickering, walkouts, and deadlocks. Summit leaders declared it a success, but some environmental groups called the progress insufficient. The international group has complex financial, economic, and political challenges to deal with in order to find a balance on how rich and poor nations will take steps to reduce global warming. The United Nations executive secretary for the conference, Christiana Figueres, said at the close of the summit, "It does not put us on track for a two-degree world."

The draft U.N. report calls for investments of billions of dollars per year in low-carbon energies, such as wind, solar, or nuclear power by 2029. Substantial reductions in fossil fuel energy are recommended, as well as energy-efficient upgrades in transportation and industry. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pushing forward with its Climate Action Plan, including steps to limit carbon emissions and collaborate with the international community working to achieve climate change goals.

"The President's Climate Action Plan directs federal agencies to address climate change using existing executive authorities," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said a Jan.16 statement to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. "The plan has three key pillars: cutting carbon pollution in America; preparing the country for the impacts of climate change, and leading international efforts to combat global climate change. Responding to climate change is an urgent public health, safety, national security, and environmental imperative that presents an economic challenge and an economic opportunity."

The U.S. is taking steps to lower emissions from vehicles, to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, and to develop incentives for widescale reduction of greenhouse gases, she said. "Working closely with the State Department, EPA continues to engage our international partners in reducing carbon pollution through an array of activities," said McCarthy."These include public-private partnership efforts to address emissions of methane and other short-lived climate pollutants under the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Global Methane Initiative, as well as bilateral cooperation with major economies."

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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