Global warming can be kept to below 1.5 °C above pre-industrial temperatures without using Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), or at least not much. So says a study in Nature Climate Change. Whereas the IPCC, IEA and others have suggested that negative emission technologies like BECCS would be vital, the new paper claims that a range of ambitious mitigation options can minimize or, collectively, eliminate the need for BECCS. The study, by researchers at the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, looks to the much more rapid adoption of renewables and energy efficiency, more emphasis on non-carbon greenhouse gas reduction, and also to lifestyle changes, including less car use and less meat-eating. That may be hard, but so would BECCS – vast land areas of biomass would be needed to have a significant impact, and that anyway assumes CCS can be done at scale. The paper says “existing studies hardly look into more aggressive implementation of options, such as rapid implementation of the best available technologies or deep reduction of non-CO2 GHGs [greenhouse gases]. Technology development could also be more rapid than typically assumed”. So it may be possible to limit or avoid BECCS. Not so, says Bert Metz, former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group on mitigation and now senior adviser to the European Climate Foundation. He told Carbon Brief: “It is highly unlikely that the investigated options can indeed all be applied simultaneously to the extent assumed in the paper and that the full impacts of each of the options can be delivered in practice, as the assumptions are very ambitious.” However, Stephan Singer, senior adviser on global energy policies to the NGO umbrella group Climate Action Network, told Carbon Brief: “Lifestyle changes for the globally high-consuming and emitting rich…are [a] fundamental part of the equation…This is not limited to individual dietary changes…[it] also includes significant transport and travel behavioural change, institutionalized longer durability of products, higher reusability of components, new materials and, overall, a circular economy.” Indeed, as Carbon Brief noted, some would go further and look to a world without relentless economic growth. But for now, what seems to have happened is that BECCS has been dethroned as a default “backstop”. Detlef van Vuuren, senior researcher at PBL and lead author of the new report, told Carbon Brief that it was “unfortunate” that work to date on meeting 1.5 °C has been so dominated by BECCS.
Physics World 19th Sept 2018 read more »