by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
At the virtual Leaders’ Climate Summit on Thursday, climate czar John Kerry made the claim that even if a goal of net-zero emissions is achieved, carbon dioxide will still need to be removed from the atmosphere.
Kerry spoke through a screen as the summit was held on a virtual format, saying, “Even if we get to net zero, we still have to get carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. This is a bigger challenge than a lot of people have really grabbed onto yet.”
Scientists have pointed to a rise in carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere as a force behind global warming. That said, carbon dioxide also plays a crucial role in sustaining life on Earth because it keeps heat in the atmosphere and prevents the planet from becoming too cold.
According to UCAR Center for Science Education, there are natural sources of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere in addition to human industrialization efforts. Volcanic outgassing and wildfires emit carbon dioxide, as well as human respiration.
There are also natural ways that carbon dioxide is used up in the atmosphere, such as through photosynthesis — “the biochemical process by which plants and some microbes create food.” Forests and certain parts of the ocean with photosynthetic microbes are known as carbon “sinks” that can take out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Kerry has called on the United States to speed up the process of developing carbon capture technologies in the past. At the CERAWeek conference last month, in a conversation with former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Kerry said, “I think that the fossil fuel industry clearly could do a lot more to transition into being a full-fledged energy (industry) that is embracing some of these new technologies.”