The Earth Needs Multiple Methods For Removing CO2 From The Air To Avert Worst Of Climate Change

The Earth Needs Multiple Methods For Removing CO2 From The Air To Avert Worst Of Climate Change Reducing pollution will help stave off climate change but avoiding the worst effects means taking CO2 out of the atmosphere at large scale. AP Photo/J. David Ake

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher than at any time in human history, and nine of the warmest years have occurred since 2005.

Even with the progress made in introducing alternatives to fossil fuels, gaining energy efficiencies and proposed carbon regulations around the world, avoiding catastrophic impacts on our coastal infrastructure, biodiversity, food, energy and water resources will require more. In particular, many climate researchers like myself believe government needs to advance technology that will actually suck carbon dioxide out of the air and put it away for very long periods.

There are several so-called negative emissions technologies that could remove carbon dioxide from the air, including those aimed at removing CO2 by enhancing natural forest and wetland uptake, using bio-energy in power production and scrubbing CO2 efficiently from air.

As diplomats and policymakers gather to discuss global agreements to reduce greenhouse gas, many believe that negative emissions technologies need to be part of the discussion for how nations will address climate change. But much as there is not a single solution to reducing emissions, no one technology will alone be sufficient to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Matter of scale

In a 2018 consensus study, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences concluded that negative emission technologies will be needed to reduce difficult-to-reduce emissions even if most emissions from burning fossil fuels, agricultural land use and cement production – the top sources of man-made greenhouse gases – could be eliminated. The study noted that direct emission reductions in some sectors, such as air travel, will be always remain more difficult to achieve and will require methods to remove CO2 from the air and store it away.

The Earth Needs Multiple Methods For Removing CO2 From The Air To Avert Worst Of Climate Change The concept of carbon capture and storage is to separate carbon dioxide from the emissions of burning fuel, such as those generated at a power plant, and to permanently store them underground. UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, CC BY-ND

The scale of the problem is daunting. In the U.S. alone, which emits about a sixth of current global CO2, and with global energy needs steadily increasing, emissions to the atmosphere are expected to outpace uptake and the volume of waste gas will only grow. In its latest emissions gap report, the United Nations warned greenhouse gases will continue to rise despite most countries committing to reduce them, calling the forecast for reversing the course “bleak.”

Where should CO2 be safely put away? The most convenient sites appear to be near industrial sources, such as power plants, but they can come with a tangle of issues surrounding underground property rights, overland access, and long-term risks and liabilities near populated areas.

A researcher explains how a prototype of how a direct air capture device works to remove CO2 from the air for underground storage.

 

My research has suggested that offshore storage sites around the globe may offer several unique and important advantages. In particular, CO2 injected into cooled volcanic rocks under the ocean will react chemically with them to form solid minerals like calcium carbonate – limestone – mimicking the natural process of rock weathering.

Although this technique has not been demonstrated in large-scale experiments, my research suggests that sub-sea rocks have the potential to provide vast capacity for hundreds of years of emissions, physical safeguards that will protect the oceans and humans, and can be located at safe distances from potential interference with ongoing human activities.

Portfolio approach

But that alone is not enough. Considering the various negative emission technologies reviewed by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, it seems clear to me that all possibilities for carbon capture and storage need to be pursued in parallel. That’s because no one location, no singular technology and no country in isolation will be sufficient to solve this huge problem by itself. Different industrial, economic, legal and environmental conditions around the globe will require different solutions, and ultimately, these must all work together. In my view, pursuing a wide range of solutions does not create a competition between eliminating emissions and directly decreasing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

Some researchers have voiced the concern that adoption of these technologies will discourage efforts to lower emissions. But some of these technologies, such as removing CO2 directly from the air, are currently expensive and efficiencies are still improving. So, with regulations to limit carbon emissions, polluters would face the costs of directly reducing emissions or the financial consequences of continuing to emit while relying on negative emissions technologies – both solutions would reduce CO2 waste collecting in the air.

Any concerns over costs, though, should be compared to cost of doing nothing. It is estimated that allowing emissions to continue apace may reduce GDP in some areas by as much as 1% per year, reflecting potential losses in productivity due to the effects of warming on regional resources, jobs and public health.

Both social and economic incentives will likely be needed to implement these technologies at the scale required to address climate warming, similar to past subsidies and research investments in alternative energy technologies that are now widespread.

To make negative emission technologies viable, industry needs physical and measurable proof of those which will be most effective and then the means to implement them at full scale. That means large government and private investments in research and development for these technologies.

About The Author

David Goldberg, Lamont Research Professor, Columbia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
9780143130444In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy

by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
1610919564With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein
1451697392In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
by Josie Garthwaite
Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, research shows.
kelp forrest 7 12
How The Forests Of The World’s Oceans Contribute To Alleviating The Climate Crisis
by Emma Bryce
Researchers are looking to kelp for help storing carbon dioxide far beneath the surface of the sea.
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
by Ken Buesseler
The ocean plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. The driving force comes from tiny plankton that produce…
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
by Gabriel Filippelli and Joseph D. Ortiz
“Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil” is not what anyone wants to hear about their city’s tap water. But the combined effects of…
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate impasse
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate Impasse
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone has energy stories, whether they’re about a relative working on an oil rig, a parent teaching a child to turn…
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
by Gregg Howe and Nathan Havko
For millennia, insects and the plants they feed on have been engaged in a co-evolutionary battle: to eat or not be…
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
by Swapnesh Masrani
Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045…
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
by Theresa Crimmins
Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception.

LATEST ARTICLES

Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
by Ann Rowan
In the world of glaciology, the year 2007 would go down in history. It was the year a seemingly small error in a major…
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
by Edward Lempinen
By the end of this century, tens of millions of people could die each year worldwide as a result of temperatures rising…
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
by Janet Stephenson
A proposed multibillion-dollar project to build a pumped hydro storage plant could make New Zealand’s electricity grid…
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
by Guaduneth Chico et al
Wind power in the UK now accounts for nearly 30% of all electricity production. Land-based wind turbines now produce…
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
by Stuart Capstick
In new research, we have identified what we call 12 “discourses of delay”. These are ways of speaking and writing about…
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
by Gunnar W. Schade
If you’ve driven through an area where companies extract oil and gas from shale formations, you’ve probably seen flames…
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
by Avit K Bhowmik
Europe’s major airlines are likely to see their turnover drop by 50% in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,…
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
by Steven Sherwood et al
We know the climate changes as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but the exact amount of expected warming remains…