The mathematics of climate change is ruthless.Scientists estimate that the world can only emit Hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide Enter the atmosphere before crossing an important threshold: 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than pre-industrial levels. This is the limit that countries have decided to strive for in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Although hundreds of billions of metric tons may sound extravagant, at current emission rates, we may exceed our budget in the next ten years.

If global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees, theoretically the climate can be restored to a safer level in the future through negative emission technology-various methods to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and hide it in trees or soil, underground rock formations, or long-term life products , Such as cement.

But even the most promising negative emission solutions are not yet ready for this job, no matter how big or small it ends up. They are nascent, expensive and energy-intensive, and their impact is difficult to verify. There is a debate among scientists, policy makers, and activists over whether they can clean up the atmosphere as some supporters suggest.Many in the debate also worry that the entire prospect of clearing the atmosphere will cause Moral Hazard By reducing today’s ambitions to reduce emissions.

in a 2016 papersClimate scientist James Hansen and his colleagues wrote that the idea of ​​postponing mitigation measures today is that we can fix the climate in the future “enable young people to accept large-scale, incredible cleanups or increasing climate impacts, or both. Yes.”

For Johannes Bednar, a researcher at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, one of the biggest problems with this future cleanup is that there is no payment method.

“If we don’t plan to do anything in the future now, then we can be pretty sure that we will not achieve the temperature target of the Paris Agreement,” Bednar said. “We need a strategy, we can’t wait.”

Bednar and his colleagues came up with a new proposal to solve this problem, which they described in a report. Papers published in the journal Nature Thursday. It proposes a way to link every ton of carbon dioxide emitted from now on to the party responsible for cleaning up in the future through a financial instrument called Carbon Removal Obligation or CRO. You can think of CRO as carbon debt or IOU. One way they may work is for a country’s central bank to issue a controlled number of CROs to private banks. The polluting company will then obtain these CROs as an option to comply with regulations that cap their emissions. Just like mortgage loans, CROs don’t spend any upfront fees—but companies must pay interest until they finally “repay” by removing that ton of carbon from the atmosphere.

Marcus Thomson, a climate modeler at the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-author of the paper, said: “It has taken the burden of removal and pushed it forward in time.” He said that the CRO may be “a Enforcers to ensure that we don’t just drag today’s problems into the future.”

Rather than requiring the company to take immediate action on its emissions, which today usually leads to purchases Cheap, fake carbon offset, The CRO system will recognize that an effective and affordable way to remove carbon from the atmosphere is Not yet availableThe author believes that it can help establish a negative emission market and implement it in phases faster.

Researchers have found that CRO can not only solve the problem of air purification, but also produce valuable ripple effects. For example, if a company finds that reducing emissions is cheaper than paying CRO interest, they can encourage greater emissions reductions today.This means that ultimately fewer negative emissions will be required to address concerns about large-scale deployment of these solutions unsustainable.

“This is the result we really need; this is the most important result,” said Kate Dooley, a climate policy researcher at the University of Melbourne. Need to consider intergenerational climate justice Speaking of negative emissions.

But Dooley also has great concerns about this idea. On the one hand, it reflects the current cap and transaction carbon pricing plans, but it does not solve any problems that plague these plans. She said, for example, due to loopholes in emission caps, difficulties in enforcement, and industry lobbying to obtain free emission allowances, the European trading system has not achieved significant emissions reductions. In addition, if these companies go bankrupt and default on their CRO, who will pay?The history of polluting companies Avoid liquidation costs through bankruptcy.

When talking about the 2008 financial crisis, Dooley said: “In essence, to assume responsibility for the health of the planet and believe that monetary policy will achieve this. I think this is very scary, as we have seen.”

Bedner acknowledged that these debts may eventually be bundled, resold, and withdrawn through the financial markets as mortgages caused the crisis. “This is the main challenge,” he said. (In addition to carbon already in Financialization and trading Through existing procedures. )

To deal with this risk, Bednar stated that the number of CROs on the market needs to be strictly controlled and traceable at all points in time. Banks also need to learn to assess the costs and practical challenges of removing carbon from the atmosphere.

He said that if the company does not repay the carbon debt, or if there is no viable negative emission technology, the bank can simply think that the CRO is too risky and stop issuing, or raise the interest rate to a level that the company is unwilling to pay. Bedner admits that in the early days, the system needs to be built on trust that viable solutions to remove carbon from the atmosphere will emerge. “If you don’t see these things happen in the next 10 years, then carbon debt will be limited to what is feasible,” he said.

Although Dooley thinks this idea is interesting, she pointed out that other recent papers try to solve some of the same problems in the following ways Strengthen the net zero plan. Instead of making a vague promise to achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2050, it is better to encourage or require countries and companies to set binding emission reduction targets earlier, publish implementation plans, and describe how they will maintain net zero emissions or even Net negative emissions.

“The only option with the lowest risk is to reduce emissions as soon as possible,” she said. “The next decade is very critical and absolutely vital to reducing emissions. If we have not completely reversed this ship, we will not solve the problem. [negative emissions.]”


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