Carbon Removal Technology: A Tool in the Climate Change Fight

carbon removal

Even with ambitious carbon emissions reduction efforts in the fight against climate change, it’s increasingly clear that carbon removal (removing carbon dioxide, CO2) from the atmosphere is also essential to achieving the world’s climate goals. This is why interest and investing in carbon removal technology is booming.

What is Carbon Removal?
carbon removal

Carbon removal refers to a range of methods that capture CO2 directly from the air or oceans and sequester it, preventing it from contributing to global warming. This is different from carbon capture and storage (CCS), which focuses on capturing CO2 from industrial sources before it’s released into the atmosphere.

 

Audiences will be very familiar with nature’s own solutions. Trees, plants, soil and oceans are the world’s largest carbon sinks. They all sequester carbon, maintaining the Earth’s climatic balance and preventing carbon from contributing to accelerated global warming. The Paris Climate Deal and subsequent national plans to tackle climate change partly rely on these nature-based solutions, which include:

 

Reforestation: Dedicating more land to forests and planting trees is a simple way to absorb CO2 as the trees grow;

 

Soil Carbon Sequestration: Practices such as crop rotation and no-till farming enhance soil’s ability to store carbon;

 

Coastal and Ocean-based Solutions: Restoring wetlands and kelp forests, and using ocean fertilization, to enhance CO2 uptake in the oceans.

 

There is also a growth in technological solutions. For example, Direct Air Capture (DAC) uses large machines that use chemical processes to pull CO2 directly from the air. Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) is a process in which biomass is grown, burned for energy, and the resulting CO2 is captured and stored. Enhanced Weathering is the practice of spreading crushed rocks that absorb CO2 from the air.

 

While these and other technological solutions show promise, the challenge with carbon removal can be the enormous energy demands of running these man-made systems. Some less energy-intensive experimental ideas are being put to the test on a small scale. For example, Banyu Carbon is a start-up that aims to filter and capture CO2 from seawater by using light molecules that transform carbon in seawater into a gas that can be stored. The filtered seawater could be returned to the sea to then remove more carbon from the atmosphere.

 

 

Benefits of Carbon Removal

 

If successful, there are many benefits of carbon removal. We can use it to address historic emissions because carbon removal tackles the CO2 that has already accumulated in the atmosphere, not just future emissions. Some companies, such as Microsoft, have committed to becoming “carbon negative”, meaning they will become carbon neutral and they will remove their net emissions from the atmosphere since the corporation existed.

 

Carbon removal can help reduce the impact of sectors that have big negative effects on global warming. Some industries, such as aviation and agriculture, are very difficult to decarbonize completely, yet they are obviously essential to our way of life. Carbon removal can help to offset their emissions while still permitting global development to flourish.

 

If we’re being very optimistic, carbon removal could eventually help to reverse some of the damage already caused by climate change.

 

 

Challenges and Considerations

 

Still, carbon removal is not a magic bullet. Many technologies are still in their early stages and need to be scaled up significantly and affordably to make a real impact. Carbon removal can be expensive, but costs are expected to decrease as technologies mature. Some methods, such as BECCS, have potential downsides, such as land use concerns, and many technologies themselves require significant energy.

 

Perhaps above all, we will need robust global and national verification and monitoring systems. The temptation will be great for some companies and governments to oversell the effectiveness of their carbon removal systems, because of the potential profits to be made, and so they can continue to emit higher levels of CO2. Ensuring that removed carbon is really permanently sequestered requires public demand, deep expertise, political will and robust regulation and monitoring.

 

 

The Way Forward

 

Carbon removal is not a cure for climate change and should not be seen as a substitute for reducing emissions. However, it’s a crucial tool in our climate and economic toolbox, and investing in its development and deployment is essential to achieving our global climate goals.

 

 

What You Can Do

 

  • Learn: Research the various carbon removal technologies, opportunities and their potential impacts in your area.
  • Support Policies: Advocate for policies that support the development and deployment of carbon removal.
  • Invest in Solutions: Consider offsetting your own or your company’s emissions by supporting carbon removal projects.

 

Remember, the fight against climate change requires a multi-faceted approach. Carbon removal, alongside emissions reductions, is a vital component of the path toward a sustainable future.

 

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Carbon removal,ESG impact,ESG Investors
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