The 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate Change laid out a narrow path for limiting the world’s warming to 2ºC. That path includes the deployment of carbon negative technologies that effectively run climate change in reverse. These technologies have obvious appeal and buy time to transition our energy systems away from fossil fuels. But it is not immediately obvious that any of the proposed technologies could ever be deployed at the necessary scales given the alignment of economic, environmental, and engineering factors that would be needed. In this project, an interdisciplinary team with expertise in these three domains will develop a regional model to assess the potential impact, trade offs, and costs of negative carbon emissions on the Chesapeake Bay region.

Understanding how regional decision making is likely to play out is important because if the conditions that would enable these technologies to flourish is unlikely to exist, alternatives will need to be developed as soon as possible. This research represents the first regional assessment of carbon negative technologies using the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a case study. The Chesapeake Bay contains much of the agricultural land in the mid-Atlantic US as well as major urban areas (including the nation’s capital), coastal infrastructure, agricultural activity, and carbon storage sites. The model enables us to quantify the absolute contribution negative emissions technologies could have on global climate cycling in light of the biophysical, economic, and logistical constraints so that we can help set realistic expectations and goals.