Carbon Reduction and Removal for Net Zero
At present the world emits about 50 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalents* per year. It's a lot.
Since industrialization humanity has pumped out about 2,400 billion tonnes in total. It's hard to even imagine this number. About a third of this total was only released within the last 40 years or so - it has been accelerating.
For us to stay within reach of the Paris Agreement* target of limiting heating to around 1.5 degrees celsius we don't have much remaining budget left. Most estaimates put it at around 300 to 500 billion tonnes. So somewhere between 6-10 years at our present rate, from now, in 2021.
There is no scientifically produced scenario where humanity reaches anything close to net zero* without rapidly and systematically reducing the amount of greenhouse gases* our activity on Earth puts out into the atmosphere.
Simply put, to limit the likelihood of escalating extreme climate, weather and biodiversity disasters there is no path that doesn't involve large scale decarbonization and permanently reducing the amount of CO2e* our civilisation produces from everything we do. This is true at the scale of governments, companies and everyday people as well.
This said there are things that will help, while we're reducing our emissions, to remove carbon from the atmosphere. These natural or technological carbon sinks* are useful tools to give us a little more time to decarbonize. To be clear, however, that these tools will not be silver bullets without lots of carbon reduction. It's likely they'll only get us to a small proportion of the way.
The vast majority of the path to net zero comes from reducing what we put into the atmosphere to pretty much nothing. The sooner we do the less extreme and unpredictable our future climate will be.
To get close and to maintain net zero - and limit the impact of The Climate Crisis* - we need everything in our armory. The biggest lever we have is reducing the emissions from what humanity presently does.
If you're wondering how everything fits together, have been exploring this space for a while, or are newly interested we made some things to help you live your best climate life.
Check out our free Intro to Climate and Code Red for Humanity email courses.
They cover the latest science, the complexity of the challenge as well as the opportunity we have to reimagine the world, and our relationship with it, post fossil fuels. All in normal language with everything explained (as best we know how!).
Have hope, make progress! 💚
Climate Buzzword Dictionary
The Climate Crisis - the accelerating heating of our planet due to human activity
Net zero - a target to stop producing Greenhouse Gases from human activity by 2050. It combines reducing, removing as well as offsetting hard to eliminate emissions. Also called Net-zero 2050
Paris Agreement - international agreement to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsuis while aiming for 1.5C increase in average global temperatures
Greenhouse Gases - Abbreviated to GHG. 98% made up of Carbon Dioxide, Methane or Nitrous Oxide. Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. See Carbon and Equivalents
Carbon sink - places in nature that absorb carbon and lock it away for the long term, so it's not in the atmosphere
Carbon and equivalents - bundle of main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane & nitrous oxide. Abrev. CO2e