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We Need To Take CO2 Out Of The Sky

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We Need To Take CO2 Out Of The Sky

To keep below two degrees, we’ll need to dramatically reduce current emissions and simultaneously remove 10-15 gigatons of CO2/yr from the atmosphere by 2050. Read on for what that means, why, and how we might do it.

Ryan Orbuch,

5 min read
3 take-aways
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What's inside?

Meeting 2°C [3.6 °F] global warming minimum requires reducing CO2 emissions, and removing gigatons of CO2 from the sky.

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  • Comprehensive
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Scientists continue to debate methods of limiting the Earth’s atmospheric temperature increase to a minimum of 2°C [3.6 °F] by 2050, the Paris Agreement’s proposed acceptable level. But researcher Ryan Orbuch insists that simply reducing current greenhouse gas emissions will never go far enough, even if all countries work toward that goal. Humans must additionally remove up to 15 gigatons of CO2 from the sky per year. To achieve this, employing negative emissions technologies (NETs) will be key.


Earth’s runaway global greenhouse effect, a major contributor to climate change, results from burning fossil fuels, industry and agriculture.

Strategies for reducing CO2 emissions include regulating offending industries and governments, plus developing alternative fuels such as wind, solar and nuclear. The target for Earth’s temperature increase ranges from 1.5 to 2°C [2.7 to 3.6 °F] by 2050. 3°C [5.4 °F] of global warming or higher is considered catastrophic.

The two available approaches include reducing emissions and removing CO2 directly from the atmosphere. Both will be necessary to reach goals of 2°C or less. Dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions must be combined with removing 10 or more gigatons from the sky each year through 2050. After that, humanity must scale up to remove at least 20 gigatons annually by 2100, depending on the continued levels of emissions.

The [2015] Paris Agreement demands that countries set “Nationally Determined Contributions,” ...

About the Author

Ryan Orbuch is a climate research associate at Stripe, a company that builds economic infrastructure for the internet. Stripe strongly supports negative emissions technology.

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