New Perspective published in Science by Kevin Anderson- ‘Mitigation on methadone: reliance on negative emissions locks in our carbon addiction’

The Paris Agreement on climate change and the carbon-reduction plans of many governments (including the UK) are unwittingly reliant on unproven technologies to suck hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.

Kevin Anderson and Glen Peters, a colleague from Norway, have written a Perspective in the journal Science in which the scale and widespread reliance on ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NETs) is revealed. Such technologies remain at best experimental, with most still languishing in the dark recesses of universities. Nevertheless the models being used to advise governments on what action to take are dominated by such highly speculative technologies – with many assuming their mass roll-out beginning within the decade.    

The beguiling appeal of relying on future negative emission technologies is that they delay the need for stringent and politically challenging polices today, permitting the continued production of fossil fuels and shifting the burden of mitigation on to future generations. However, negative emission technologies are not an insurance policy. Instead they are a high stakes bet, with tomorrow’s generations, particularly those living in poor and climatically vulnerable communities, set to pay the price should our risky gamble fail to deliver as promised.

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