The IPCC's mitigation scenarios assume large volumes of future global carbon removal deployment compared to today's levels. However, if we look at where the sector currently stands, it falls far short of what is needed to address the urgent threat of unprecedented global warming. Let’s dive into the numbers: The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal Report
estimates that the current scale of carbon removal accounts for only 2 Gt of CO2
per year (global emissions of carbon dioxide lay at 36.8 Gt in 2022
). Out of this amount, less than 0.01% is durable carbon removal (i.e., where the carbon is not re-emitted into the atmosphere), highlighting the urgent need to scale up durable carbon removal by over 5,000 times to reach the required 10 Gt by 2050.
The most commonly used carbon removal methods to date (making up the 99.9% of non-durable efforts referred to above) encompass conventional, managed carbon removal on land, like afforestation. While these activities are essential from an ecosystem regeneration perspective, they by no means sufficiently store removed carbon long and fast enough to effectively offset the climate impact of humans burning fossil fuels for centuries, and are also not scalable enough to meet our goals. They have to be complemented by novel, durable carbon removal, such as Biochar Carbon Removal (BCR), Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS), Enhanced Weathering (EW), Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and other emergent carbon removal technologies. To reach net zero by mid-century and eventually, in the second half of the century, net negative emissions, all carbon removal will need to be durable.
In other words, the future availability of adequate volumes of carbon removals requires rapid and sustained upscaling starting today.
Further reading: The AR6 WIII report
from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).