Why do we need to remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere?

Since the industrial revolution, we have been emitting millions of tonnes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere and recently we have started emitting billions of tonnes. In the year 2021 alone we have emitted 36.3 Billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These gargantuan amounts of gasses do not pass away into space but keep accumulating in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a green house gas and hence it is warming up the planet.


(Source: IPCC Report)

The temperature rise must be kept below 1.5 Degree C to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We are running out of time and if we do not take the required drastic steps immediately, we will not be able to check the temperature at 1.5 Degree C.

To prevent the worst effect of climate change we must not only reduce emissions at the source but also scrub accumulating carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as emissions at the source cannot be reduced to zero due to technological and other limitations. Also, for historic emissions there are no other options other than removing them directly from the atmosphere. 

Our path to net-zero involves reducing whatever is possible at the source and then removing whatever residual, unavoidable, hard-to-reduce nd historic emissions, that could not be reduced at the source.

Reduction is done at the source. The reporting company can take necessary steps at their end by adopting technological and other measures.

E.g. (1) A company replaces all diesel powered vehicles in the company to electric. (2) A cement manufacturer deploys CCUS to reduce emissions by 15%.

There is a limit to the reduction of emissions. Emissions for any source cannot be reduced to zero due to technical or other limitations.

Since emissions cannot be reduced to zero due to technological or other limitations, removal comes into the picture. Without removing emissions from the picture, net-zero is impossible.

Emissions that cannot be reduced at the source, like residual emissions, difficult-to-reduce, unavoidable, and historic emissions, need to be removed. The process requires carbon dioxide to be  scrubbed from the atmosphere using technologically or by natural means.

Removal is generally sourced and is independent of the source and its location as it is the same atmosphere everywhere. 

IPCC Special report says that we have to remove somewhere between 100-1000 Gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This comes down to removing, but natural and technological means, a minimum of 1 Gigaton every year starting today.

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