John Kerry: We need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere
John Kerry, President Joe Biden‘s climate czar, during the world leaders’ virtual climate summit on Thursday talked about how getting carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere will be critical in combatting climate change, even if the United States achieves net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
“You said twice [that] getting to net-zero is going to be hard, really hard,” Biden’s Special Envoy for Climate said to a reporter at one point during the summit, on Earth Day. “And I would just remind everybody that that will depend on whether or not we have some breakthrough technologies and breakthrough innovations.”
“But even if we get to net-zero, we still have to get carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” he continued, adding that “this is a bigger challenge than a lot of people have […] really grabbed onto yet.”
Along with reducing carbon dioxide emissions to reach net-zero, environmentalists and scientists have said that removing the massive amount of carbon dioxide that humans have already been emitting into the atmosphere will be critical in fighting climate change. The goal would be to reduce the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere to a “safe” level, which scientists have generally placed around 350 parts per million. According to Carbon Brief, the concentration as of March 2021 has reached about 417ppm, a 50% increase over the 1750-1800 average.
The World Resources Institute, a global environmental nonprofit, illustrated six possible ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere. These include: a variety of ways to increase the amount of carbon stored in soil, Bio-energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), direct air capture technology, carbon mineralization, a number of ocean-based carbon removal concepts, and planting more forests.
There also exists a possibly lucrative opportunity for certain businesses to make lots of money by utilizing air-captured carbon in certain products and services, which, according to a 2019 report from Vox, could potentially create a $1 trillion market by 2030.
Kerry’s comments came on the same day that Biden pledged to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52%—compared to 2005 levels—by 2030, as part of a broader goal of achieving net-zero emissions in the country by 2050.
RELATED: Biden vows to cut nearly half of greenhouse emissions by 2030
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.
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New York first state to ban natural gas and other fossil fuels in new buildings
The environmentalists are beating down policymakers are they have won a huge battle in New York. On Tuesday, New York became the first state in the country to ban the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels for heating and cooking in most new buildings.
The law does not affect existing buildings, and exempts renovations. “It also includes exceptions for a variety of new buildings, including hospitals, manufacturing facilities, and restaurants. But it does not allow cities or counties to opt out” reports National Review.
As is standard with government oversight, the rules do not apply equally across the board, highlighting its hypocrisy.
The state’s Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul endorsed a ban on natural-gas hookups in new construction during her state-of-the-state address in January. “Her spokeswoman reassured environmental activists earlier this week that the law would not include a loophole allowing localities to exempt themselves from the ban” adds National Review.
“The new law will not have any loopholes that will undermine the intent of this measure,” Katy Zielinski said in a statement provided to the New York Times. “There will not be any option for municipalities to opt out.”
State Republicans, however, oppose the measure, worried that it will raise costs for consumers, stress the electrical grid, and have little environmental benefit. “A first-in-the-nation, unconstitutional ban on natural gas hookups in new construction will drive up utility bills and increase housing costs,” state Senate minority leader Robert Ortt said in a prepared statement.
Until recently, environmental groups tended to view natural gas positively and as a relatively clean bridge fuel in the transition to a low-carbon environment. The shift from coal to natural gas, which is cheap and abundant, helped the U.S. power industry lower its carbon emissions by a third between 2005 and 2019, according to a Cato Institute report from last year.
National Review writes:
But, over the past decade, many environmental groups have changed their position after research found that a larger fraction of methane in the atmosphere came from industrial sources than had previously been thought.
In 2019, Berkeley became the first U.S. city to ban gas hookups in most new homes or commercial buildings, drawing a lawsuit from the California Restaurant Association. Last month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ban. Gas-industry representatives and New York Republicans have suggested the new legislation could be struck down in court along similar lines.
Other progressive cities and counties have instituted their own bans on new gas hookups. In 2021, New York City passed a ban on natural-gas hookups in new buildings under seven stories, which is set to take effect in December. The law will apply to taller buildings beginning in 2027.
In March, the Bay Area’s air-pollution regulators voted to phase out and eventually ban the sale of new gas furnaces and water heaters in the Northern California region, a move that energy experts and economists say will be costly for residents and will likely have limited environmental impact.
“There is no problem with natural gas appliances,” Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute told National Review at the time. “They’re not zero-emitting, but they’re very, very low-emitting. There’s no real problem with the emissions, and they’re economical in use, and consumers prefer them for that reason.”
In New York, most homes rely on natural gas for heating, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and there will likely be significant legal battles for the new legislation ahead.
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