, Volume 118, Issue 1, pp 29-43,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Can radiative forcing be limited to 2.6 Wm−2 without negative emissions from bioenergy AND CO2 capture and storage?

Abstract

Combining bioenergy and carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage (CCS) technologies (BECCS) has the potential to remove CO2 from the atmosphere while producing useful energy. BECCS has played a central role in scenarios that reduce climate forcing to low levels such as 2.6 Wm−2. In this paper we consider whether BECCS is essential to limiting radiative forcing (RF) to 2.6 Wm−2 by 2100 using the Global Change Assessment Model, a closely coupled model of biogeophysical and human Earth systems. We show that BECCS can potentially reduce the cost of limiting RF to 2.6 Wm−2 by 2100 but that a variety of technology combinations that do not include BECCS can also achieve this goal, under appropriate emissions mitigation policies. We note that with appropriate supporting land-use policies terrestrial sequestration could deliver carbon storage ranging from 200 to 700 PgCO2-equiavalent over the 21st century. We explore substantial delays in participation by some geopolitical regions. We find that the value of BECCS is substantially higher under delay and that delay results in higher transient RF and climate change. However, when major regions postponed mitigation indefinitely, it was impossible to return RF to 2.6 Wm−2 by 2100. Neither finite land resources nor finite potential geologic storage capacity represented a meaningful technical limit on the ability of BECCS to contribute to emissions mitigation in the numerical experiments reported in this paper.

This article is part of a Special Issue on "Carbon Dioxide Removal from the Atmosphere: Complementary Insights from Science and Modeling" edited by Massimo Tavoni, Robert Socolow, and Carlo Carraro.