Department für Geographie





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STEPSEC: Comparative evaluation of the potential of terrestrial carbon dioxide removal

Fachgebiet: Geographische Gesellschaft-Umwelt-Forschung, Klimatologie, Modellierung, Vegetationsgeographie

Projektleitung: Prof. Dr. Julia Pongratz
Projektwissenschaftler: Dr. Sabine Egerer, Dr. Stefanie Falk, Prof. Dr. Matthias Garschagen, M.Sc. Felix Gulde, M.Sc. Tobias Nützel, Dr. Wolfgang A. Obermeier, Dr. Maximilian Witting

Laufzeit: 10/2021 - 09/2024
STEPSEC_Luftbild.jpg  [2.100 KB]

Photo credit: © Julia Pongratz

Terrestrial ecosystems are the focus of rapidly deployable methods to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This requires a comparative assessment of measures, taking into account socio-ecological constraints. Afforestation and reforestation, forest management, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) are among the much-discussed measures to take up and store CO2, as some of them are considered "nature-based solutions", which could further be deployed relatively quickly. However, developing climate change mitigation pathways requires estimates of how much CO2 these terrestrial measures will remove from the atmosphere.

These potentials must also be weighed against side-effects of deploying such measures, particularly unintended impacts on the Earth system such as land/resource competition with food production and water use, impacts on biodiversity, and changes in climate due to changes of the energy and water balance. In addition, societal processes present barriers to implementation. However, currently, no feasibility assessment exists that integrates these considerations and compares the major terrestrial carbon dioxide removal (CDR) measures. This will be provided by the STEPSEC project.

STEPSEC goes beyond previous studies by estimating the CDR potentials of re/-afforestation, forest management, and BECCS based on simulations with several Dynamic Global Vegetation Models, and integrating new process detail regarding, e.g, the influences of weather extremes. The project contrasts expected CDR potentials with their unintended impacts on the Earth system and thus identifies synergies or trade-offs with other sustainable development goals, in particular the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

STEPSEC integrates the scientific assessment with aspects of socio-economic feasibility. The project will integrate all socio-environmental indicators considered, extend existing frameworks for feasibility assessments, and add ethical criteria of desirability andacceptability. In this way, STEPSEC will contribute methodologically and quantitatively to a comprehensive interdisciplinary assessment of terrestrial CDR methods needed for informed decision-making in Germany.

STEPSEC is one of the individual projects that are combined in the synthesis project CDRSynTra.

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