Expert assessment concludes negative emissions scenarios may not deliver

Clair Gough, Naomi Vaughan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many integrated assessment models (IAMs) rely on the availability and extensive use of biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to deliver emissions scenarios consistent with limiting climate change to below 2 °C average temperature rise. BECCS has the potential to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, delivering ‘negative emissions’. The deployment of
BECCS at the scale assumed in IAM scenarios is highly uncertain: biomass energy is commonly used but not at such a scale, and CCS technologies have been demonstrated but not commercially established. Here we present the results of an expert elicitation process that explores the explicit and implicit assumptions underpinning the feasibility of BECCS in IAM scenarios. Our results show that
the assumptions are considered realistic regarding technical aspects of CCS but unrealistic regarding the extent of bioenergy deployment, and development of adequate societal support and governance structures for BECCS. The results highlight concerns about the assumed magnitude of carbon dioxide removal achieved across a full BECCS supply chain, with the greatest uncertainty in bioenergy production. Unrealistically optimistic assumptions regarding the future availability of BECCS in IAM scenarios could lead to the overshoot of critical warming limits and have significant impacts on nearterm mitigation options.
Original languageEnglish
Article number095003
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2016


  • climate change, carbon dioxide removal, BECCS, expert elicitation, scenarios, negative emission technologies


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