Presented by Dr Nem Vaughan, University of East Anglia
Current efforts to limit the negative impacts of climate change focus on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases especially CO2 that we put into our atmosphere, by changing how we generate and use electricity, how we power our transport, and how we heat or cool our homes. However, keeping the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial will also require us to actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a very large scale. Two ways that scientists and economists suggest we could do this are by (1) planting forests to lock up carbon and (2) using energy crops or waste from the timber and agricultural industries to generate electricity and capture and store underground the CO2 produced when the electricity is made. Both of these approaches require large areas of land on which to grow the energy crops or trees.
This project will investigate how realistic it is to depend on these methods of CO2 removal, and what the consequences would be for the climate, land-use, ecosystems, and wider social and political systems.
We aim to more accurately determine the amount of CO2 these methods are able to remove from the atmosphere for a given amount of effort. Many factors contribute to this calculation, some of which are highly uncertain. For example, how the carbon cycle will respond to a large shift in land use for energy crops or forests. Social factors are also critical. The development of these important technologies depends on understanding social reactions and the right policies being in place to stimulate uptake.