Feasibility of Afforestation and Biomass energy with carbon capture storage for Greenhouse Gas Removal (FAB GGR)

​GGR Consortium: FAB GGR Future climate change is projected to have overall negative impacts on many aspects of human society (e.g. health, availability of food, rising sea levels) and on natural ecosystems (e.g. loss of biodiversity). In Paris in December 2015, countries agreed to limit the increase in global mean temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C. This poses a phenomenal challenge because most of the allowable ‘budget’ of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to stay within these temperature targets has already been spent, and global CO2 emissions are still increasing. Current efforts to limit the negative impacts of climate change focus on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases especially CO2 that we put into our atmosphere, by changing how we generate and use electricity, how we power our transport, and how we heat or cool our homes. However, keeping the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial will also require us to actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a very large scale. Two ways that scientists and economists suggest we could do this are by (1) planting forests to lock up carbon and (2) using energy crops or waste from the timber and agricultural industries to generate electricity and capture and store underground the CO2 produced when the electricity is made. Both of these approaches require large areas of land on which to grow the energy crops or trees. This project will investigate how realistic it is to depend on these methods of CO2 removal, and what the consequences would be for the climate, land-use, ecosystems, and wider social and political systems. We aim to more accurately determine the amount of CO2 these methods are able to remove from the atmosphere for a given amount of effort. Many factors contribute to this calculation, some of which are highly uncertain. For example, how the carbon cycle will respond to a large shift in land use for energy crops or forests. Social factors are also critical. The development of these important technologies depends on understanding social reactions and the right policies being in place to stimulate uptake. We will use an interdisciplinary mix of quantitative models and qualitative social science methods to address these issues. The models represent relevant aspects of the Earth system from farm to global scales, including the land, soils, plants, and atmosphere. A key aim is to make a comprehensive (termed ‘consequential’) life cycle assessment of the effect of the chosen technologies on the carbon cycle, working from the scale of supply chains to particular power plants, to the UK national scale, to the whole Earth system. We aim to go beyond this and also consider the wider effects and trade-offs of the technologies on societies and policy, the climate system, land-use, and ecosystem services. These include impacts on the release of other greenhouse gases, physical effects on the climate system (for example changing the reflectivity of the land surface to sunlight), effects on the water cycle and water quality, on biodiversity, and on the recreational value of landscapes. Working together with the quantitative analysis we will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the societal, policy and governance-related uncertainties, implications and bottlenecks associated with the real world implementation of the project’s two chosen GGR methods. This draws on state-of-the-art social science approaches developed by the research team for the review and analysis of how members of the public and stakeholders perceive and respond to emerging technologies, including those for CO2 removal. The consortium team will meet every six months to exchange ideas and learn from each other. At the end of the project we will present our most important findings to policy makers so they can better understand how realistic it is to depend on these methods.