Climate restoration

Climate restoration is the climate change[2] goal and associated actions to restore

CO2 to levels humans have survived long-term, below 300 ppm. This would restore the Earth system[3] generally to a safe state, for the well-being of future generations of humanity and nature. Actions include carbon dioxide removal from the Carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, which, in combination with emissions reductions, would reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and thereby reduce the global warming[4] produced by the greenhouse effect of an excess of CO2 over its pre-industrial level. Actions also include restoring pre-industrial atmospheric methane levels by accelerating natural methane oxidation.

Today’s CO2 is roughly 120 ppm higher than the highest levels humans have survived long-term. Nature has removed similar massive amounts of CO2 preceding ice ages, ten times in the last 800,000 years. The CO2 that reduces levels by 120 ppm is mostly converted to biocarbon by phytoplankton and stored in the deep ocean, and released when the ice-age ends. The phytoplankton growth corresponds with ocean iron concentration.[1]
A visualization of phytoplankton bloom populations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans from March 2003 to October 2006. The blue areas are nutrient deficient. Green to yellow show blooms fed by dust blown from nearby landmasses.

Climate restoration enhances legacy climate goals (stabilizing earth’s climate) to include ensuring the survival of humanity by restoring CO2 to levels of the last 6000 years that allowed agriculture and civilization to develop.

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Climate restoration is the goal underlying climate change mitigation,[5] whose actions are intended to “limit the magnitude or rate of long-term climate change”. Advocates of climate restoration accept that climate change has already had major negative impacts which threaten the long-term survival of humanity. The current mitigation pathway leaves the risk that conditions will go beyond adaptation and abrupt climate change[6] will be upon us. There is a human moral imperative to maximize the chances of future generations’ survival. By promoting the vision of the “survival and flourishing of humanity”, with the Earth System restored to a state close to that in which our species and civilization evolved, advocates claim that there is a huge incentive for innovation and investment to ensure that this restoration takes place safely and in a timely fashion. As stated in “The Economist” in November 2017, “in any realistic scenario, emissions cannot be cut fast enough to keep the total stock of greenhouse gases sufficiently small to limit the rise in temperature successfully. But there is barely any public discussion of how to bring about the extra “negative emissions” needed to reduce the stock of CO2 … Unless that changes, the promise of limiting the harm of climate change is almost certain to be broken.”[7]

A first peer-reviewed article about climate restoration was published in April 2018 by the Rand Corporation. [8] The analysis “examines climate restoration through the lens of risk management under conditions of deep uncertainty, exploring the technology, economic, and policy conditions under which it might be possible to achieve various climate restoration goals and the conditions under which society might be better off with (rather than without) a climate restoration goal.” One key finding of the study is that it would be possible to restore the CO2 atmospheric concentrations to preindustrial levels at an acceptable cost under two scenarios, where greenhouse gas reductions and direct air capture (DAC) technologies prove to be economically efficient. One example is Carbon Engineering, a Canadian-based clean energy company focussing on the commercialization of Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere.

One key recommendation of the Rand Corporation study is that an ambitious climate restoration goal may seek to achieve preindustrial concentration by 2075, or by the end of the century. It concludes that “The best we can do is pursue climate restoration with a passion while embedding it in a process of testing, experimentation, correction, and discovery.”

The committee’s logo, showing a silhouette of the Capitol dome before a warming stripes graphic depicting annual global temperature rise.[9]

On September 25, 2018, Rep. Jamie Raskin introduced a resolution on Climate Restoration to the U.S House Committee of Energy and Commerce, concluding with “Whereas scientists have researched methods for keeping warming below 2° C, but have not yet researched the best methods to remove all excess CO2, stop sea-level rise, and restore a safe and healthy climate for future generations; and whereas declaring a goal of restoring a safe and healthy climate will encourage scientists to research the most effective ways to restore safe CO2 levels, stop sea-level rise, and restore a safe and healthy climate for future generations.” This was followed by the Congressional Climate Emergency Resolutions (S.Con.Res.22, H.Con.Res.52) which “demands a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive-scale to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations….” [10][11]

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