Climate change is an expensive problem for everyone, as is carbon removal. In addition to the harmful environmental effects on the planet, more extreme and inhospitable weather will cost billions of dollars each year.
According to the White House, the United States could spend another $25 billion to $128 billion each year in response to hurricanes, floods, wildfires, droughts and other events, up to a staggering $2 trillion annually for climate relief. until the end of the century.
Carbon emissions contribute significantly to climate change, weakening Earth’s ability to regulate temperature and trapping heat in the atmosphere. As scientists search for new ways to combat climate change, removing carbon may be the solution needed to reduce harmful emissions and reverse climate damage.
Understanding carbon emissions is essential to finding solutions to reduce them. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a natural and important gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s a necessary element: CO2 absorbs and radiates heat, allowing the planet to maintain a temperature warm enough to support life.
problems in the atmosphere
However, excessive levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases cause problems in the atmosphere. Excess CO2 enhances the planet’s natural greenhouse effect, causing it to retain too much heat and raising the Earth’s temperature more than normal, leading to global warming. This has a range of consequences, from rising sea levels and ocean acidification to more extreme weather events.
Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Although certain natural processes emit CO2, such as decomposition, most emissions in recent decades have come from human activities. Burning fossil fuels for heat and electricity, manufacturing, transport, agriculture and other processes has increased the CO2 content in the atmosphere by 50% over the past 200 years.
What is carbon offsetting?
These high carbon emissions mean the planet is unable to regulate itself and climate change is starting to affect communities across the world. Many people have looked for ways to reverse or limit the damage after feeling the effects. One proposed solution is carbon offsetting.
Carbon offsetting involves removing an equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere as it is deposited in it. Since many industries cannot or will not completely eliminate CO2 emissions, this commitment allows companies to continue producing while minimizing or offsetting the carbon that ends up in the environment. Offsetting allows them to earn carbon credits for their conservation efforts.
A corporation’s commitment may include reducing total emissions, but the trade-off is removing a certain amount from the atmosphere, not just preventing it. These goals are often part of a company’s broader net zero initiatives.
For example, a transportation company that emits a few hundred tons of carbon dioxide a year might commit to removing 50%, 75% or 100% of that amount. Businesses, governments and other organizations can use a variety of carbon removal methods.
Carbon removal methods
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) has one main purpose, but it doesn’t take a single form. Companies can implement different removal methods to offset their emissions:
- Direct Air Capture (DAC): DAC is the most common and direct method, removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere with physical or chemical processes. The carbon is then stored underground or in other permanent facilities.
- Reforestation: conservation efforts that encourage reforestation, or reforestation, the growth of new forests, is a long-term CDR method. Trees absorb CO2 to help naturally control the greenhouse effect, and growing more crops makes the process more efficient in offsetting the carbon output.
- Removal and storage of carbon from biomass: Using biomass like plants and algae to capture CO2 from the environment allows companies to permanently store it or reuse it in durable products that won’t release it into the atmosphere.
- Renewable energy: Supporting renewable energy initiatives leads to cleaner production methods than current fossil fuel burning processes.
Promising solutions for carbon removal
These solutions hold promise in combating climate change, but there is still a long way to go before carbon offsetting reaches its full potential. Even the most dedicated disposal programs cannot keep up with the current rate of emissions, which in 2021 reached a new record of 37 billion metric tons per year.
One of the biggest problems with carbon removal practices is transparency. Many companies can commit to reducing their emissions or participating in environmental cleanup efforts, but keeping that promise is not so easy. Without leadership, customers, and regulations to hold them accountable, a company can pretend to meet its green goals without taking action.
Environmentalists also worry that carbon offsetting could give companies free rein to pollute as much as they want, knowing they can always promise to offset their emissions in the future.
There is still a long way to go before carbon removal initiatives can match the current rate of production. However, as companies move towards net zero emissions, carbon offsets can help reduce the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere as the planet fights climate change.