In Brief
  • A study reports the global commitment to halt emissions and prevent a more than a 2ºC rise in temperatures isn't enough.
  • In the event of not keeping global warming below 2ºC, the paper suggests aggressive carbon capture efforts to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere.


The Paris climate summit last year was praised for increasing global commitment against climate change. And now, the political leaders of the world have reached an agreement to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2°C — a massive win for ecowarriors and planet Earth.

But one study claims it’s simply not enough. A discussion paper by scientist James Hansen says we must do more than stop the 2ºC rise — we must also start sucking CO2 out of the air.

The paper says 2016 temperatures are likely to be 1.25ºC above pre-industrial times and have already reached points similar to when Earth’s seas were 20 to 30 feet higher. That’s the Eemian period, more than 100,000 years ago.

Hansen’s paper, written with 11 other scientists all over the world, argues if we cap global warming at 2°C or even 1.5°C and do nothing else to lower it, we would experience “feedback.” This is when the rising temperatures release more greenhouse gases and further increases global warming.

All this has spurred Hansen, his granddaughter, and other young people to sue the U.S. federal government. The suit claims federal inaction violates the constitutional rights of the youth and will leave the burden to the next generation.


The paper does address how we can stave off disaster:

“Technically, it’s still possible to solve the climate problem…but that has two essential requirements,” Hansen says. “That would be… a simple across the board rising carbon fee, which would spur the development of alternative clean energy. Also, I think the government has to be supporting the development of clean energy in a very substantial way…”

Also, the paper says if we are able to sharply reduce global warming, we would only need mild carbon capture solutions, such as planting forests and placing biochar in soil. Both would absorb enough of the GHGs in the atmosphere.

Otherwise, we would have to resort to more drastic carbon capture technologies, like biofuel plants that suck GHGs out of the air and turn them into fuel.