Most public campaigns to curtail global warming focus on reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. However, climate scientists recognize that a second very important factor has not yet made its way to the forefront of climate control. We need to find new carbon sequestration methods, too.
Graphs like the one pictured here, from the United Nations Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report, express how little the scientific community knows what to do about removing carbon from the atmosphere. Even if we, the global community, can reduce all carbon dioxide emissions to zero, and scientists agree that this must happen by the end of the century, there is still work to be done. In order to achieve complete carbon neutrality, recovery efforts must alleviate the environmental damage that has been occurring since the Industrial Revolution.
The task seems incredibly daunting, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Cimate Change (IPCC) has estimated that between 2 and 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide needs to be captured from the atmosphere each year in order to keep below 2°C of warming, in addition to becoming emission-free.
This news may seem incredibly discouraging, but don’t get worried. Noah Deich, a scientist who used to work as a clean tech consultant, has recently opened the Center for Carbon Removal, and hopes to include scientists as well as industry and political leaders to find practical solutions to this daunting problem.
Deich explains that there are many, many options. Since soil contains more carbon than is currently in the atmosphere, there are carbon sequestration methods, in which carbon dioxide from the air is stored underground. The most exciting solution, however, would be to use atmospheric carbon dioxide to fertilize soil and improve farming practices. Farming currently strips this important nutrient from the soil, so this method would address two problems at once.
Deich also mentioned a number of industry products, including soda carbonation and fire extinguishers, that use carbon dioxide and often pay $100 a ton for it. If atmospheric carbon dioxide could be used for industrial purposes, that would be a big incentive for companies to invest in new carbon sequestration methods.
Image (c) UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2014