CO2 Removal May Be Our Last Chance

CO2 Removal May Be Our Last Chance

Corlett Novis investigates some of the latest technology aiming to tackle climate change and what it might mean for the future of our planet.

Without a means of removing vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, our chances of combating climate change are depressingly slim. This was one of the findings of a recent set of simulations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this year. Until fairly recently, the prospect of carbon removal seemed incredibly far-fetched – even the cheapest carbon removal technology, from Swiss company Climeworks, set an eye-wateringly high price of $600 per tonne of CO2 removed. Recently, however, this figure has dropped dramatically thanks to Canadian company “Carbon Engineering” who are managing to remove CO2 for $100 per tonne.

But will this be enough to save us from the catastrophic effects of climate change?

Unfortunately, this technology won’t be able to save us on its own, and many have pointed out that the ability to remove CO2 from the air presents a very particular ‘moral hazard’: if we are able to remove fossil fuel emissions from the air, then people may feel more relaxed about climate change and continue with emissions as usual rather than continue to cut back. According to the IPCC, however, we will need both to survive. The majority of the IPCC’s models for climate prediction require that both carbon removal and carbon reduction are implemented in order to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Artist’s rendition of a carbon capture system (Carbon Engineering)

Not only did the IPCC report state that we will we need to reduce our emissions to zero by 2030, but that we will need to introduce negative emissions after that point. “Negative emissions” translates to removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than we are putting in, and one of the best ways we may currently have is this new carbon capture technology, but there are many others that are in need of further research as well.

 The reason we need to achieve negative emissions is that there is already too much CO2 in the atmosphere; many experts are predicting apocalyptic consequences unless we start removing carbon very soon.

There is still a lot of carbon reduction we need to do in the next 12 years, but there are actions all of us can take as individuals to reduce our carbon footprints before the proposed 2030 deadline. For instance, eating less meat, reducing frequency of air travel and simply buying fewer items of clothing and pre-packaged food. In addition to these small actions, it is vital that we continue to let our governments know that we support green energy and reduction of carbon emissions by constantly communicating with them and pressuring them to make positive change.

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