Experts believe that residual emissions are a barrier to achieving the net-zero emissions targets
In order to achieve net-zero goals, or the concept that greenhouse gases (GHG) entering the atmosphere are balanced by those being removed, scientists have called for ways to address leftover emissions.
When attempts to reduce GHG emissions have been made, there are still emissions known as residual emissions. Even with concentrated efforts to reduce emissions, certain industries, such as shipping and agriculture, are likely to keep emitting GHG into the atmosphere.
"Our plans are not adequate to meet the goal of limiting the earth's temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050," said lead researcher Holly Jean Buck, assistant professor of environment and sustainability, University of Buffalo, New York, US.
In research that was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Buck and her multinational team urged for a better understanding of residual emissions. They claimed that by 2050, the average level of residual emissions will be 18 per cent of current levels, on average, based on national long-term policies. However, they discovered that only 28 of these 50 countries have estimated the level of residual emissions anticipated by 2050. In order to manage residual emissions, a challenge that is essential to reaching the net-zero objective, Buck and her colleagues have identified a number of procedures that must be taken.
They stated that the first stage was to create precise forecasts for the volume of residual emissions. It was crucial to determine the kind, quantity, and source of the gas in order to create effective offsetting techniques. They listed a number of options, including improving current carbon sinks, which remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they produce. The ocean, forests, and dirt are examples of ones that are naturally occurring.
"We can enhance carbon sinks," Buck said. "We can plant trees, we can conserve land, we can engineer carbon removal, but it's not enough to bring us to net-zero by 2050 with these projections of residual emissions."
They added that addressing concerns surrounding carbon-emitting industries like shipping and aviation—which are typically thought to be difficult to reduce—lays the framework for including residual emissions in plans to reach net zero by 2050. It also needs to be made clear if net-zero is an interim goal or a long-term solution requiring ongoing offsetting.
According to the experts, residual emissions are a barrier to achieving the net-zero emissions target, which, if not met, might result in more frequent floods, catastrophic heat waves, and severe economic loss from extreme weather. According to the United Nations' scientific advisory group, the world must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions this century in order to prevent the earth's temperature from rising. The increase in temperature is largely attributed to greenhouse gas emissions.