Environmental Science

Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero Is a Dangerous Trap

Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero Is a Dangerous Trap

Sometimes perception comes in a blind flash. Obscure outlines come down in shape and suddenly it all becomes meaning. Beneath such manifestations is usually a much slower process. Doubt grows behind the mind.

The feeling of confusion that something can’t be adjusted at once until something clicks together increases or perhaps snaps. Collectively we have three authors of this article who must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why did it take us so long to talk about the obvious risks of net zero concepts? As our defense, the basis of net zero is confusingly simple – and we admit that it has deceived us.

The threats of climate change are a direct result of having large amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So it follows that we need to stop further emissions and remove some of it. This concept is central to the current plan of the world to avoid disasters. In fact, there are a lot of suggestions on how to do this in practice, starting with mass tree planting to high-tech direct air capture devices that suck carbon dioxide from the air. The current sensation is that if we implement this and other so-called “carbon dioxide removal” strategies to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, we can stop global warming more quickly.

Hopefully by the middle of this century we will have achieved “net zero”. This is at the point where the removal of any residual opening of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is balanced by technology. In principle this is a great idea. Unfortunately, in practice this helps to perpetuate the belief about technological rescue and now reduces the perception of the urgency surrounding the need to prevent emissions.

We have come to the painful realization that the net zero concept has licensed a reckless equestrian to “burn now, pay later” approach that has seen carbon emissions rise further. It has accelerated the destruction of the natural world by deforestation today and increased the risk of further destruction in the future. To understand how this happened, how humanity has gambled its civilization without a promise of a future solution, we must go back to the late 1980s, when climate change came to the international stage.