A new paper finds that a range of “ambitious but not unrealistic” climate mitigation options could, together, mean that using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is not necessary for staying within 1.5°C of warming. Mitigation options considered include limiting population, lower meat consumption and use of lab-grown meat, lifestyle changes such as lower car use, electrification of energy end-use sectors, high efficiency manufacturing, agricultural intensification and mitigation of non-CO2 greenhouse gases.
The study does include the assumption that some agricultural land can be freed up for reforestation, providing “natural” carbon dioxide removal.
Mitigation scenarios that achieve the ambitious targets included in the Paris Agreement typically rely on greenhouse gas emission reductions combined with net carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere, mostly accomplished through large-scale application of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and afforestation. However, CDR strategies face several difficulties such as reliance on underground CO2 storage and competition for land with food production and biodiversity protection. The question arises whether alternative deep mitigation pathways exist. Here, using an integrated assessment model, we explore the impact of alternative pathways that include lifestyle change, additional reduction of non-CO2 greenhouse gases and more rapid electrification of energy demand based on renewable energy. Although these alternatives also face specific difficulties, they are found to significantly reduce the need for CDR, but not fully eliminate it. The alternatives offer a means to diversify transition pathways to meet the Paris Agreement targets, while simultaneously benefiting other sustainability goals.
van Vuuren, D.P., Stehfest, E., Gernaat, D.E., Berg, M., Bijl, D.L., Boer, H.S., Daioglou, V., Doelman, J.C., Edelenbosch, O.Y., Harmsen, M. and Hof, A.F., (2018). Alternative pathways to the 1.5° C target reduce the need for negative emission technologies. Nature Climate Change, p.1.