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Net-Zero Claims & Reality

Time April25/May 2nd 2022 pp53 “A closer look at carbon offsets” “Companies’ net-zero goals sound good, but they rely on a controversial approach” by Kyla Mandel

Read Time for all the detail

Summary by 2244

Directly removing carbon emissions by using solar and other alternative sources of energy is a necessary method to effect change. Carbon offsets using carbon-capture or reforestation will have a minimal impact.

We’ve all heard a lot and read a bunch about companies’ pronouncements that they will be carbon-neutral by a certain date like say 2030, 2040, 2050 but exactly how they plan to accomplish such a feat is the devil-in-the-details conundrum.

According to this article “only a relatively few companies…have set net zero targets, and even fewer expect to fully stop emitting greenhouse gases.” Instead of reducing or stopping their own emissions “the plan is to eliminate much of their carbon footprint by 2050 with offsets-paying to reduce or remove emissions somewhere else.”

Sounds good, but there’s a limited ability to achieve that by technical means like carbon capture or by natural means like growing forests. So far only a single carbon capture plant is operating and thousands are needed. Further, reportedly “nature is able to absorb only so much carbon” and at some point, as more companies seek offsets, “there won’t be enough land to meet corporate demand.”


Only 6.5% of firms have net zero plans and most of those are by 2050. Of these they pump out “4 gigatons” of carbon “two-thirds of which can be avoided by clean energy and other efforts” leaving 1.3 gigatons “to balance out using offsets.” Reforestation “can trap about 2.5” gigatons but that would require “1.4 million sq. miles” of reforestation or an area covering “over half of all land available in the world for offsets.”


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