What are negative emissions?

Negative emissions are processes that take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, for good ideally. Unless an approach converts one greenhouse gas from a particularly potent form to another less potent one, the gas has to be stored somewhere other than the atmosphere. This could be through geological storage, in a forest, a marine environment, the soil, or even part of a building.

Why do we need negative emissions?

Unfortunately, we need negative emissions because of the damage we have already inflicted upon the climate. Today, we are already at something north of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere. Pre-industrial, we were at 270. The really sad fact is that we’ve already put too much up there.

The second fact is that we’re not turning the taps off, in terms of emissions, fast enough. It’s going to take us a while to transition to a zero-emissions or near-zero-emissions economy. And we’re never going to get those taps fully off. In those very hard-to-abate sectors, for example, agriculture, we’re going need to have some negative emissions to counterbalance continued emissions.