Media coverage of carbon removal post-NAS report

In past several days, numerous media outlets have weighed in on the National Academy of Sciences (“NAS”) report on “climate interventions” (including yours truly). The Carbon Brief does a great job of aggregating these responses, which reveal both positive and negative signs for future discourse on carbon dioxide removal (“CDR”) — i.e. removing and sequestering excess carbon from the atmosphere and oceans.

The main negative sign is that many media outlets are still conflating CDR as “geoengineering” alongside Albedo Modification (“AM”) – despite the fact that the NAS report specifically fought against this this confusion:

“Carbon Dioxide Removal and Albedo Modification (i.e., modification of the fraction of short-wavelength solar radiation reflected from Earth back into space) have traditionally been lumped together under the term “geoengineering” but are sufficiently different that they deserved to be discussed in separate volumes.”

For example, the review from the Guardian quotes Eli Kintisch from Science Magazine who describes both CDR and AM as “a bad idea whose time has come.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists response does a better job of separating CDR from AM in its coverage. But their coverage, which focuses on the conclusion that “carbon removal and sequestration are more costly than reducing emissions,” risks leaving their readers with the wrong impression that we shouldn’t invest in developing CDR systems today. In fact, the NAS report highlights that it is very important to invest in developing CDR systems in addition to rapidly scaling up climate mitigation and adaptation solutions (given the importance of viable, sustainable, CDR options in the event we do not decarbonize as quickly as necessary to prevent climate change). CDR solutions are in a similar state of development as solar energy solutions were in the 1970s — concluding that such 1970’s solar projects were “expensive” misses the point that large cost reductions were possible and, if achieved, could prove transformative to our energy industry.

The best news I see from this coverage is that there seems to be little opposition from mainstream outlets to CDR (definitely not the case with AM). The only opposition to CDR comes from the Guardian article, which cites Naomi Klein and Rachel Smolker from Biofuels Watch as detractors. The overwhelming majority of leading NGOs, policy, and industry leaders have not called for CDR research and development to be limited, which is highly encouraging for the CDR field .

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