Rapid scale-up of negative emissions technologies: social barriers and social implications

Abstract

Negative emissions technologies have garnered increasing attention in the wake of the Paris target to curb global warming to 1.5 °C. However, much of the literature on carbon dioxide removal focuses on technical feasibility, and several significant social barriers to scale-up of these technologies have been glossed over. This paper reviews the existing literature on the social implications of rapidly ramping up carbon dioxide removal. It also explores the applicability of previous empirical social science research on intersecting topics, with examples drawn from research on first- and second-generation biofuels and forest carbon projects. Social science fieldwork and case studies of land use change, agricultural and energy system change, and technology adoption and diffusion can help in both anticipating the social implications of emerging negative emissions technologies and understanding the factors that shape trajectories of technological development. By integrating empirical research on public and producer perceptions, barriers to adoption, conditions driving new technologies, and social impacts, projections about negative emissions technologies can become more realistic and more useful to climate change policymaking.

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Acknowledgments

Many thanks to the reviewers, to former colleagues at the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam for critical discussions, to the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment at American University, and to Charles Geisler.

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Correspondence to Holly Jean Buck.

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Buck, H.J. Rapid scale-up of negative emissions technologies: social barriers and social implications. Climatic Change 139, 155–167 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1770-6

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Keywords

  • Carbon dioxide removal
  • Negative emissions
  • Food systems
  • Direct air capture
  • BECCS