Can Science Beat Greenhouse Gases?



21 April 2017

In a project which may very well influence what energy assessors do in the future, scientists are setting out to determine whether it will be possible to remove sufficient greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to meet our current and future climate targets.

The £8.6m Greenhouse Gas Removal Research Programme will involve 100 researchers from across 40 UK universities and partner organisations, and fund seven PhD students to complete research programmes.

It is being funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the leading UK public funder of environmental science, together with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and two science and engineering research councils.

The NERC said in a statement yesterday: “The UK is committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1·5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“Alongside significant emission reductions, large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere could considerably increase the likelihood of achieving this goal.

“Researchers know there are ways to approach this challenge but they have yet to be demonstrated on scales that are climatically-significant. Major questions remain around their feasibility, as well as impacts on society and public attitudes.”

None of this work directly involves the energy efficiency of buildings, but how far researchers can go in finding ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is likely to determine how urgent is the task of reducing emissions from homes and businesses.

Researchers will investigate the potential for increasing carbon storage in agricultural soil and forests, and new ways to remove methane gas from the air on a local scale.

Others will look into using waste materials from mining as a greenhouse gas removal technique, and explore how bioenergy crops could be used in power stations in combination with carbon capture and storage methods.

Recognising that the UK alone cannot solve these problems, the research will also address the political, socio-economic, technological and environmental issues concerning the potential for greenhouse gas removal on a global scale.

Professor Tim Wheeler, Director for Science & Innovation at NERC, said: “The UK research community is addressing the challenges of climate change by providing world-leading, independent research to inform decision-making that will ensure future wellbeing and prosperity for the UK and internationally.

“This new Greenhouse Gas Removal programme will shed light on how new approaches could be used to prevent the effects of climate change, alongside reducing emissions, aligning with the UK’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“This multi-disciplinary research embodies the research councils’ shared commitment to working together to provide vital answers to society’s most pressing questions.”

For further details of the research go to