I’ve been following climate science since the mid- 90’s with the inception of the US Global Change Research Program. I remember one of my co-workers, Elvia Niebla, coming back from a meeting and telling us about this source of funding, and our saying “hey the climate affects everything; you could justify anything under climate.” With the passage of time, researchers who, say, had formerly studied loblolly pine physiology in greenhouses started writing proposals called “effects of climate change on loblolly pine” from work in greenhouses. I don’t think we fully understand how that shading of funding for the last 20 years or so has affected not only what work has gotten done, but actually how we think about climate change- especially relative to less-studied and less-funded problems.
Needless to say, the US and other governments have spent beaucoup bucks attempting to describe future impacts, and not quite so much on fixes to the problem. This could be because it may make sense for all of it to go to DOE for practical fixes, and not be broadly distributed across agencies and disciplines. That’s why I think that former Energy Secretary Moniz’s effort is so interesting (and is in some current bipartisan bills), as it’s all about fixes. AS DOE and its Labs understand so well (yes, because they are “separate” the Labs are allowed to lobby Congress, unlike the other agencies), telling Reps that some funding will go to their district is a good way to get funding. You can tell this from Moniz’s presentation at this House Appropriations Hearing.
That’s why I think that former Energy Secretary Moniz’s effort is so interesting (and is in some current bipartisan bills), as it’s all about fixes.
He noted there are three main approaches to carbon removal: “natural techniques,” such as afforestation; “technologically enhanced natural processes,” such as the uptake of carbon in rocks through accelerated mineralization; and purely technological approaches, such as direct air capture, which uses chemical processes to absorb carbon from ambient air. Some removal techniques also require associated storage solutions, such as incorporating the carbon into new products or sequestering it underground. Justifying a broad approach, the EFI report argues it is “too soon to declare a ‘winner’” among the techniques.
In proposing a detailed funding profile for the initiative, Moniz noted EFI drew from a 2018 study by the National Academies that similarly charted a 10 year interagency research agenda for negative emission technologies. He said EFI’s plan is not “jarringly different” from the Academies study, though he said there are some divergences.
Moniz said the initiative would require an annual investment that would begin at about $300 million and peak at $1.4 billion. Of the $11 billion total, $2 billion would go toward large-scale demonstration projects in the latter phase of the initiative. Across agencies, DOE would spend about $5 billion in total, and the National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would spend about $900 million each…..
Moniz acknowledged the price tag for the initiative could be a tough sell in Congress and observed its inclusion of agencies spanning multiple appropriations subcommittees further increased the complexity of gaining the necessary support. He remarked, “The fact that we have 10 agencies involved and six appropriations bills does not make it easier from the process point of view. In other words, the program is not well matched to the silos in Congress.”
However, he noted the federal government has committed to other interagency initiatives costing more than $1 billion annually, such as the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the National Networking and Information Technology R&D Initiative.
IMHO forests and trees are mostly going to do what they’re going to do. Live, die, burn up, regenerate and so on. Our ability to change that on a mega scale (enough to affect large amount of carbon, with a high degree of certainty over time) tends to be both questionable and usually expensive. In general, drastically changing land use practices (afforestation where no trees are now) for carbon sequestration is 1) difficult to do and 2) runs into all kinds of social and environmental obstacles. Plus there are no guarantees that our carefully-tended carbon uptakers won’t just die due to climate change and/or invasives, or their interaction, in all kinds of unpredictable combos. I suspect what will happen is with more funding some people will dream up possible forest interventions, and other people will critique them, which is pretty much the cycle that research is already on; self-sustaining but not necessarily productive of useful policy options. I wonder whether there’s a way to design ourselves out of that cycle, perhaps by co-design and co-development of proposals with people who disagree about the existing proposed forest interventions?