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Exploring Methods of Carbon Capture


By Asa Stone

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash


The narrative behind climate mitigation is straightforward: humanity must significantly reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent further warming. Unfortunately, even if all emissions were halted right now, one study suggests that “the planet may continue to warm by a few tenths of a degree for several years” (E&E News, 2022).


We cannot have a single-faceted approach. We need to do as much as we can as soon as possible in order to prevent further warming because the damage we’re doing now will continue for many years. It is clear from most of the climate legislation today that emissions will not suddenly stop, but will be phased out in an attempt to let the economy adapt. This can be seen across the country as carbon emission markers are set: “45% below 1990 levels by 2030, 80% below 1990 levels by 2040, net-zero emissions by 2050,” states the 2021 Act on Climate of Rhode Island.


It is not enough to simply reduce emissions; this will not solve the problem quickly enough. In addition to carbon reduction, the solution to this problem must also involve a certain amount of carbon capture in order to mitigate climate change that may already be “locked in” to the atmosphere (E&E News, 2022). Carbon capture and storage is a strategy that involves sequestering carbon from the atmosphere in a range of different methods and storing it to prevent atmospheric warming. While this has been proven to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and therefore help fight climate change, the concept has not been widely accepted. Many countries, companies, and people have been resistant to change habits to combat climate change; they require an incentive. This multi-faceted approach opens new doors of economic growth for countries more hesitant to change production to combat climate change and more options for individuals to participate in climate mitigation. Some of these solutions include already very widely accepted processes such as sustainable agriculture, but others are much less talked about. Some new concepts include using microorganisms or basaltic rock dust on soil to capture carbon in the ground, creating materials that suck carbon out of the air, or implementing highly controversial Carbon dioxide removal tech that is polarizing policy-makers. These new ideas, which seek to move past the bi-partisan barrier using private sectors such as business, tech, and agriculture have people questioning whether new technology should be embraced or feared.


One key reason that many lawmakers and scientists are skeptical of these technologies is that they see them as an alternative to carbon reduction technologies rather than as a complement. If policymakers spent less time arguing about which type of strategy to invest in and instead spent time working together to implement legislation supporting both approaches, the climate might have a chance.


Ben Rubin commented on this in an article for the Guardian, “The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)] report makes clear that the window of opportunity is closing quickly, highlighting the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions is crucial but not enough: the report affirms that gigatones of carbon removal are required to help restore the climate,” (Guardian, 2023). Rubin, who is director of the Carbon Business Council emphasizes the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the crisis by recognizing that we should not put all of our faith in “urgency and political will”.


If we are putting all of our energy into waiting for lawmakers to enact political change, we will have wasted precious time that could have been spent using carbon capture technology that is proven effective in climate mitigation. The IPCC says that reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 is critical in remaining below 1.5 degrees C warming. Lead author, Friedrecke Otto, says that political change is necessary for this level to be achieved, but this is not currently happening, and it may be time to look to other technological options.


This blog series will be a deep dive into what these carbon capture technologies do and if they are a feasible part of the climate change solution while highlighting the necessity of a multifaceted approach.


Part II is coming soon and will be linked below.


 

Citations:

Guardian News and Media. (2023, April 25). Carbon dioxide removal: The tech that is polarising climate science. The Guardian. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/apr/25/carbon-dioxide-removal-tech-polarising-climate-science


Harvey, C. (2022, June 9). What if CO2 emissions stopped today? A study offers answers. E&E News. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from https://www.eenews.net/articles/what-if-co2-emissions-stopped-today-a-study-offers-answers/#:~:text=If%20emissions%20suddenly%20stopped%20today,is%20likely%20to%20reverse%20itself.


Ziady, H. (2022, November 8). A former NBA champion is changing 'how the world builds' to fight the climate crisis | CNN business. CNN. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/07/business/partanna-rick-fox-housing-bahamas-cop27/index.html


Cosier , S., Williams, T., Schwägerl, C., & Pearce, F. (n.d.). How adding rock dust to soil could help get carbon into the ground. Yale E360. Retrieved April 26, 2023, from https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-adding-rock-dust-to-soil-can-help-get-carbon-into-the-ground


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