Time to consider all options to tackle the planetary emergency, says Johan Rockström, in the launch episode of the new C2GTalk interview series
10 December 2020 – The world faces a planetary emergency which requires careful consideration even of emerging climate-altering technologies, says one of the world’s leading climate thinkers Johan Rockström, in an interview with the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative.
He shares his ideas in the first episode of the new C2GTalk series, which will explore the thoughts of some of the world’s leading practitioners on the governance of emerging approaches to climate change, in addition to emission reductions, such as large-scale carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation modification.
Mr Rockström is Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Professor in Earth System Science, and spearheaded the internationally renowned team of scientists that developed the planetary boundaries framework, which are argued to be fundamental in maintaining a ‘safe operating space for humanity’. He also acts as an advisor to several governments and business networks, and at key international conferences.
Speaking shortly before the December 12 Climate Ambition Summit, he says: “We have to consider the real risk today of us, humanity, being in a position of destabilising the state of the Earth system. There’s a need to now, whether we like it or not, put all the cards on the table. We have to consider all the options. So the question is, apart from decarbonising the energy system and keeping all the natural carbon sinks intact, what do we need to do beyond that?”
“My conclusion at this point is that I would still keep an arm’s length distance from geoengineering that goes beyond technologies and systems that are well proven to not have unexpected side effects that we potentially cannot handle.”
At the same time, Mr Rockström says he would “definitely encourage” assessments of their consequences and governance implications. “I would be very careful when it comes to Solar Radiation Management,” he says. “On the other hand, there is a there’s a whole set of conventional geoengineering systems that are more in the realm of known technologies, and that we very, very likely are dependent on … And these are of course, the more conventional carbon capture storage systems, the biological carbon capture storage (BECCS) systems.”
Over the coming weeks and months, C2G will feature guests from across the world of international diplomacy and climate action, to tackle some of the most challenging questions facing policy makers and society at large. C2G aims to broadcast around two episodes a month in 2021.
The December 12 Climate Ambition Summit and other key meetings over the coming months are critical to putting the world on an irreversible pathway to decarbonisation. Mr Rockström says that could also reduce the risk that additional approaches would undermine essential emissions reductions.
“We are … decisively moving towards countries in the world understanding and implementing legally binding, five-year time-step pathways taking us out of the fossil fuel era. So that of course opens up for a much, much more low-risk discussion on alternative options.”