With all the talk of a Green New Deal going on right now, what seems to get lost is the reality that we’re already past the point where simply reducing or even eliminating carbon dioxide emissions isn’t enough to avoid the calamity of climate change. Yes, we do need to do that, but we also need to remove the excess carbon dioxide that’s already there.
That’s according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which, in a report released in October, said:
All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) on the order of 100–1000 GtCO2 over the 21st century.
The 1.5°C figures is key because the IPCC projects that that much warming will have widespread and catastrophic effects.
So how to do we draw down carbon from the atmosphere?
I wrote up five projects that are already demonstrating five different ways to get the job done for Bloomberg Businessweek.
Projects from Climeworks, Arizona State University, Carbon Engineering, Archer Daniels Midland Company, and Conservation International actively pull carbon dioxide from the air, passively absorb it, capture it from the exhaust stack of biofuel production, and help nature do its thing by investing in mangrove swamps.
Now, the 100 billion to 1 trillion tons that the IPCC says we need to remove over the course of this century is a lot of carbon dioxide. To remove that much, “We have to create an industry equivalent to the oil and gas industry whose job it is to undo emissions,” Julio Friedmann, CEO of Carbon Wrangler and a researcher at Columbia University told me for my article.
We have the technology. Now we have to apply it at industrial scale. Let’s hope that the Green New Deal can help us do that.