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Modeling direct air carbon capture and storage in a 1.5 °C climate future using historical analogs

Limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 °C will rely, in part, on technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. However, many carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies are in the early stages of development, and there is limited data to inform predictions of their future adoption. Here, we present an approach to model adoption of early-stage technologies such as CDR and apply it to direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS). Our approach combines empirical data on historical technology analogs and early adoption indicators to model a range of feasible growth pathways. We use these pathways as inputs to an integrated assessment model (the Global Change Analysis Model, GCAM) and evaluate their effects under an emissions policy to limit end-of-century temperature change to 1.5 °C. Adoption varies widely across analogs, which share different strategic similarities with DACCS. If DACCS growth mirrors high-growth analogs (e.g., solar photovoltaics), it can reach up to 4.9 GtCO2 removal by midcentury, compared to as low as 0.2 GtCO2 for low-growth analogs (e.g., natural gas pipelines). For these slower growing analogs, unabated fossil fuel generation in 2050 is reduced by 44% compared to high-growth analogs, with implications for energy investments and stranded assets. Residual emissions at the end of the century are also substantially lower (by up to 43% and 34% in transportation and industry) under lower DACCS scenarios. The large variation in growth rates observed for different analogs can also point to policy takeaways for enabling DACCS.

M.R. Edwards, Z.H. Thomas, G. Nemet, S. Rathod, J. Greene, K. Surana, K.M. Kennedy, J. Fuhrman, H.C. McJeon, Modeling direct air carbon capture and storage in a 1.5 °C climate future using historical analogs, PNAS 121(20) e2215679121.


Kavita Surana

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