Cutting through the noise on negative emissions

Sam Uden, Paul Dargusch, Chris Greig

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Negative-emission technologies (NETs) are widely viewed as a risky backstop technology for climate change mitigation. In this perspective, we challenge this limited view of NETs. We show how, notwithstanding their merit, integrated assessment models (IAMs) are largely responsible for establishing this opposition to NETs. This is because IAM-based assessments of NETs dominate the policy-facing literature, but as a result of model limitations, we are left with a deceptively shallow understanding of the role NETs could play to support long-term mitigation goals. Therefore, in the second part of this perspective, we provide a non-IAM-based fresh take on NETs. We explore NETs via a bottom-up analysis and introduce a decision-making framework to determine the circumstances under which NETs could provide value as a mitigation option at jurisdictional scales. We apply this framework to case studies in California and New Mexico, highlighting how NETs could overcome socio-technical obstacles and unlock a variety of environmental and social co-benefits as part of helping to achieve time-bound mitigation goals. Overall, this perspective aims to cut through what we see as a noisy discourse on NETs, which is wrapped-up in concerns that are dependent on scenario modeling and offer a plain evaluation of NETs as a potential climate change mitigation option.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1956-1970
Number of pages15
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 18 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Energy


  • bioenergy
  • CCUS
  • climate mitigation
  • integrated assessment models
  • negative emissions
  • socio-technical


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