Fending off damaging climate change is like a timed game of chess humanity can’t afford to lose. Our odds of avoiding checkmate improve significantly if we keep cumulative carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions under 350 gigatons between now and 2050. The problem is that if nothing changes, we will already deplete this CO2 “budget”—based on the Paris Agreement—by 2030.
A strategy known as “net zero,” which many companies, institutions, and governments are considering, buys the world time to transition to low-carbon technologies and for behavioral changes to take hold. The basic concept behind net zero is simple: reduce emissions aggressively and balance out the remaining CO2with removals.