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“The idea of net zero carbon is a dangerous trap”

  • by JW

“It helps perpetuate a belief in technological salvation and diminishes the sense of urgency surrounding the need to curb emissions now.”


There are real problems with the idea of getting to ‘net zero carbon’, as covered in these pages.


In Mid Devon, we have a clear example of greenwash:

“The applicant for planning permission [to expand an industrial estate] states that the site would help achieve net-zero development. “We want to invest in as much solar as we can and try and stop people driving out of the area to go to work.”

‘Net-zero development’ in Mid Devon – Vision Group for Sidmouth


Indeed, it is (deliberately) confusing:

“Carbon neutrality targets are often not as ambitious as they sound, relying on problematic carbon offsets and unproven technologies.”

What is exactly is ​‘net-zero carbon’? … revisited – Vision Group for Sidmouth


And if we go to Exeter, “choosing politically-palatable policies to present as solutions that don’t actually work” suggests that:

“City councillors had a very limited understanding of what reducing Exeter’s carbon footprint to sustainable levels would actually involve.”

The ‘Net Zero’ Exeter plan has “profound flaws” – Vision Group for Sidmouth


The excellent Exeter Observer posted this on its Twitter pages last week, showing that a new ‘Roaring Twenties’ might not get us to any targets, zero or otherwise:

@WMO report confirms “relentless” intensification of climate crisis @IEA expects post-pandemic economic stimulus to drive huge carbon emissions rise @GreenAllianceUK says UK emissions to overshoot 2030 target by 40%


Its editor retweeted a link to this piece from the Conversation:

This article/thread is necessary reading for all those who still mistakenly believe that #NetZeroExeter groupthink/rhetoric/solutionism will save us


And here is the opening of that article, penned by Exeter University’s own James Dyke and colleagues:

The threats of climate change are the direct result of there being too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So it follows that we must stop emitting more and even remove some of it. This idea is central to the world’s current plan to avoid catastrophe. In fact, there are many suggestions as to how to actually do this, from mass tree planting, to high tech direct air capture devices that suck out carbon dioxide from the air.

The current consensus is that if we deploy these and other so-called “carbon dioxide removal” techniques at the same time as reducing our burning of fossil fuels, we can more rapidly halt global warming. Hopefully around the middle of this century we will achieve “net zero”. This is the point at which any residual emissions of greenhouse gases are balanced by technologies removing them from the atmosphere.

This is a great idea, in principle. Unfortunately, in practice it helps perpetuate a belief in technological salvation and diminishes the sense of urgency surrounding the need to curb emissions now.

We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier “burn now, pay later” approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future….

Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap


See the Futures Forum blog from a couple of years ago:

Futures Forum: Climate change: Are proposals to repair the climate offering “scalable technological fixes” or “climate despair”?