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Natural carbon removal as technology

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Article numbere767
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/03/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change
Issue number2
Number of pages6
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date3/02/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Lay people tend to prefer natural solutions for carbon removal over technological ones. Researchers have argued that all carbon removal methods can be seen as ‘natural’. Here I argue that it is also in practice necessary to see all carbon removal methods as ‘technological’, i.e. standardised, engineered, machine-like, enclosed systems.
Natural carbon removal method are complex socio-natural-technical messy systems that interact in complex ways with their environments. But to work well in practice as an option in climate policy – including in any emissions trading or offsetting schemes – they simultaneously need to be framed in much narrower terms, to be accountable (modellable, tradeable). And there will be efforts to not just frame, but physically make natural carbon removal as standardised, engineered, machine-like and enclosed as possible – though doomed to never be fully successful. It is in these senses that all carbon removal is technological.
The ambiguity between an often vague framing as natural, a narrowly technological framing and a wider socio-natural-technical framing, matters for public understanding and acceptance. Would lay publics still prefer natural solutions to carbon removal, if they are informed about the inevitable technological framing and shaping of them? Research is needed about this.
It also matters for the risk of mitigation deterrence. Previous research shows that the narrow framing, of carbon removal methods as technology is implicated in societal processes that deter efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.