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Published on November 16th, 2019 | by Cynthia Shahan

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Greta Sails Home, + Common “Net-Zero Emissions” Questions & Answers

November 16th, 2019 by  


This week, Greta Thunberg, the well known empowered climate activist from Northern Europe, continued her net-zero-emissions journey by returning home. Greta is working to educate the world. She spreads hope and addresses concerns. Avoiding the use of fossil fuels, she once again took to the seas rather than flying in order to reach Europe with her father.

No doubt Greta has increased her wisdom with the indigenous activists and other heroes. And she has gotten the support of all sorts of fans, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Sailing La Vagabonde.

We know that disaster news week by week is the result of something man-made. How do we un-make what was made?

Urgency is the issue in Earth’s predicament, according to the science — 11 years, some scientists and environmental activists exclaim. The urgency has one activist sailing in a zero-emissions, genuinely “carbon-neutral” Transatlantic trip over the Atlantic rather than flying over. The urgency has other activists sitting on older bones in hard jail cells protecting Fire Drill Friday’s activism on Climate Justice. The World Resource institute agrees with activist Jane Fonda’s efforts.

Kelly Levin and Chantal Davis writing for the World Resource Institute (WRI): “The latest research is clear: To avoid the worst climate impacts, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will not only need to drop by half in the next 10 years, they will then have to reach net-zero around mid-century.”

Thanks to Greta and others like her, certain phrases and words are more familiar — lighter footprint, zero emissions, net-zero emissions. Yet, what does net-zero emissions actually mean? WRI had and answered the same question:

“We will achieve net-zero emissions when any remaining human-caused GHG emissions are balanced out by removing GHGs from the atmosphere (a process known as carbon removal). First and foremost, human-caused emissions — like those from fossil-fueled vehicles and factories — should be reduced as close to zero as possible. Any remaining GHGs would be balanced with an equivalent amount of carbon removal, for example by restoring forests or through direct air capture and storage (DACS) technology. The concept of net-zero emissions is akin to ‘climate neutrality.'”

A follow-up question, on a grander scale: “When Does the World Need to Reach Net-Zero Emissions?” The answer, according to WRI:

“Under the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to limit warming well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F). Climate impacts that are already unfolding around the world, even with only 1.1 degrees C (2 degrees F) of warming — from melting ice to devastating heatwaves and more intense storms — show the urgency of minimizing temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees C. The latest science suggests that to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, the world will need to reach net-zero emissions on the following timelines:

  • In scenarios that limit warming to 1.5 degrees C, carbon dioxide (CO2) reaches net-zero on average by 2050 (in scenarios with low or no overshoot) to 2052 (in scenarios that have high overshoot, in which temperature rise surpasses 1.5 degrees C for some time before being brought down). Total GHG emissions reach net-zero between 2063 and 2068.
  • In 2 degrees C scenarios, CO2 reaches net-zero on average by 2070 (in scenarios with a greater than 66% likelihood of limiting warming to 2 degrees C) to 2085 (50–66% likelihood). Total GHG emissions reach net-zero by the end of the century.”

Society is not the same everywhere, so WRI followed that up with a third question: “Do All Countries Need to Reach Net-Zero at the Same Time?” The answer:

“At the very least, major emitters (such as the United States, the European Union, and China) should reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, or it will be hard for the math to work regardless of what other countries do. Ideally, major emitters will reach net-zero much earlier, given that the largest economies play an outsize role in determining the trajectory of global emissions.”

WRI also highlighted the countries that currently have net-zero emissions targets:

“Fifteen countries have now adopted net-zero targets — Bhutan, Costa Rica, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Iceland, Japan, the Marshall Islands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. An updated list of announcements can be found here. While there are new announcements every month, the percentage of global emissions covered by some form of a net-zero target still hovers around 5%. Some of these targets are in law, and some are in other policy documents. Some net-zero targets have been incorporated directly into countries’ long-term, low-emissions development strategies, while other countries have adopted net-zero targets before submitting a long-term strategy.

“Additional countries and regions have proposed adopting net-zero targets, including Chile, the European Union, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain.”

Read the full story from WRI: “What Does ‘Net-Zero Emissions’ Mean? 6 Common Questions, Answered.”

 
 

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)



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