Carbon removal studies to inform climate policy

Scientists at the University are to carry out research to inform approaches to tackling climate change.

Their studies will examine the potential to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to help prevent climate change.

The approach, known as Greenhouse Gas Removal, is suggested to help to keep total emissions within a fixed budget consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement climate change treaty.

Climate studies

Scientists from the School of GeoSciences will work on two projects.

A £240,000 project, known as MERLiN (Metrics for Emissions Removal Limits for Nature), will use climate models to explore the impacts of drawing down carbon dioxide decades after it was emitted. 

Researchers will investigate how the impacts of climate change differ between reducing emissions rapidly now or using greenhouse gas removal in the future.

Elsewhere, researchers will work with collaborators at the University of Newcastle and Scotland’s Rural College in a £1.8 million project led by the University of Aberdeen, to assess the global potential for using soil to store carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere.

Edinburgh scientists will help model the potential for carbon enrichment of soils, including strategic use of charcoal in the form of biochar, and promoting the formation of carbonate minerals.

In addition, they will consider the potential interface of such soils with plants, the methods’ translation into agricultural practice, and the economic impact.

Informing policy

Both studies form part of an £8.6 million investment at UK institutions to evaluate the potential and implications of greenhouse gas removal approaches.

Outcomes from the research will be used to inform policymakers about how to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

This requires global temperature rise to be kept below 2°C and seeks to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

The programme is jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The Met Office and the Science and Technology Facilities Council are providing in-kind support.

Emissions reductions currently planned by the world’s governments are insufficient to achieve the Paris Agreements’ targets. Meeting these targets appears reliant on future greenhouse gas removal, which is so far little understood and developed. Our work seeks to better understand the potential for greenhouse gas removal to inform how much it might help address climate change.

Dr Vivian ScottSchool of GeoSciences