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Climate Action Made Easy

Your information hub on the fundamentals of carbon removal and its role in mitigating the climate crisis

Why do we need to act now?

The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges humanity is facing today and urgent action on a massive scale is needed to address it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international body established by the UN to assess the scientific knowledge related to climate change, states gigatonne (Gt) scale carbon removal (taking CO2 out of the atmosphere) is required by mid-century for us to reach net zero. Today, we are only removing about 2 gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere annually, out of which less than 0.01% is durable carbon removal (i.e., where the carbon is stored long-term). This means we need to scale durable carbon removal by a factor of up to 5,000 until 2050, or almost 40% every year until then. Achieving this goal will require rapid scale-up and deployment of a variety of viable durable carbon removal methods.

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What is Carbon Removal?

Durable carbon removal, also known as carbon dioxide removal (CDR), refers to intentional human actions to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and securely store it in places where it won't easily return to the air. We achieve this by locking carbon away for hundreds to thousands of years in geological formations, deep ocean layers, soil, or certain materials. It involves technologies like Biochar Carbon Removal (BCR) and Enhanced Weathering (EW) but doesn't include the natural absorption of CO2 that happens without human interference.

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Why do we need both carbon reduction and removal?

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased rapidly over the past century. This significant impact on the concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere has caused devastating consequences for the planet. Achieving deep reductions in GHG emissions is essential to managing the climate crisis. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that emission reductions alone are no longer sufficient. The reality is that we have already emitted an excessive amount of CO2 (historic emissions) and are faced with the daunting challenge of addressing hard-to-abate emissions from industries such as aviation, aluminum, concrete and cement, shipping, steel, and trucking. We could think of our situation like a bathtub filled with scalding water, but this water isn't just hot; it's a mix of chemicals that's throwing our planet's natural systems off balance. To tackle this, it's essential to turn off the tap that's constantly adding more water, but even that won't work unless we also unplug the drain to let it all flow out. Therefore, large-scale carbon removal needs to be deployed in tandem with other mitigation methods.

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Why should we follow a portfolio approach to carbon removal?

To effectively tackle the climate crisis, we must recognize the need for a wide range of carbon removal technologies that offer diverse characteristics, such as varying co-benefits, timescales of carbon storage, technological maturity, cost, and many other factors.  This multi-facetted approach alone will enable carbon removal to scale to the volumes needed to make a lasting impact on the fight against climate change.

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How does carbon avoidance differ from carbon removal?

CO2 avoidance encompasses initiatives that compensate for own emissions by avoiding the creation of new emissions elsewhere, for example by paying for regenerative farming, sponsoring clean cookstoves, or protecting forests. Over the last decades, a vivid market for such carbon offset certificates has developed. However, the source of CO2 behind these activities refers to potential emissions rather than the atmosphere. Carbon avoidance does not remove atmospheric carbon and is therefore not suited to counter-balance fossil emissions.

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Carbon Removal Technologies