According to new research, humans must start removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere immediately in order to avoid the extreme repercussions of climate change. Otherwise, future generations will be spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to battle these catastrophic effects. The international team who came to this stark conclusion was led by NASA’s former chief of climate science, professor Jim Hansen.
An academic paper on this topic drafted by the team, and depressingly yet accurately titled, “Young people’s burden: requirement of negative CO2 emissions,” establishes their case.
In short, efforts to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by about 12.5 percent are necessary. When asked by The Independent to assess current global progress in fighting climate change, Hansen said, “s*** is hitting the fan.”
The carbon capture goals cited by the team could mostly be achieved via agricultural measures including the improvement of soil fertility and planting trees. However, these low-cost methods might need to be supplemented with more costly measures, such as direct carbon capture devices that burn biomass in power plants — and without immediate action, these more expensive tactics would certainly be needed.
The researchers estimate the cost of industrial carbon capture processes at up to $535 trillion during this century alone.
The paper is being used to bolster a historic lawsuit 21 children have brought against the US government, in which the plaintiffs claim federal policies are violating their constitutional right to have a healthy climate to live in. Environmentalists hope that if the case is successful, the Trump administration will be forced to take measures to fight against climate change and prevent further damage.
This work is also sounding an alarm for people around the world: despite progress made on climate change, the war is far from over. According to the research, significant rises in sea levels are still to come. Falling prices of renewables and a decrease in fossil fuel emissions have led to a feeling of optimism among the public — one that is, the study’s authors, say, misplaced given that climate change is actually accelerating. Should a court find in favor of the plaintiffs, it could not force a specific solution on the Government, but it could find that failing to address the problem is unconstitutional and require the government to develop an effective plan.