Growing plants and then storing the CO2 they have taken up from the atmosphere is no viable option to counteract unmitigated emissions from fossil fuel burning, a new study shows. The plantations would need to be so large, they would eliminate most natural ecosystems or reduce food production if implemented as a late-regret option in the case of substantial failure to reduce emissions. However, growing biomass soon in well-selected places with increased irrigation or fertilization could support climate policies of rapid and strong emission cuts to achieve climate stabilization below 2 degrees Celsius.
“If we continue burning coal and oil the way we do today and regret our inaction later, the amounts of greenhouse gas we would need to take out of the atmosphere in order to stabilize the climate would be too huge to manage,” says Lena Boysen from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany, lead-author of the study to be published in a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Earth’s Future. Plants suck CO2 out of the atmosphere to build their woody roots, stems and leaves. This is low-tech terrestrial carbon dioxide removal that could be combined with high-tech carbon storage mechanisms, for example underground.
Read the Science and Technology Research News story - “Climate Stabilization: Planting Trees Cannot Replace Cutting CO2 Emissions.”