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New Carbon Capture Technology Now Able To Fight Climate Change: Experts

While the U.S. federal government may have other priorities, U.S. states, cities, corporations and other countries around the world are investing in fighting climate change.

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Climate change, carbon
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows yellow-cedar trees growing along Sheep Lake east of the Cascade crest in Washington State. Adding and restoring forests is a cheap way to get substantial amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, a new report says. VOA

Four cost-effective methods are ready today to remove substantial amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, according to a new report from a panel of top scientists.

All four take advantage of nature’s ability to take carbon from the air and store it.

However, fully implementing all of them still would not be enough to prevent potentially catastrophic levels of global warming, according to the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Nearly all nations have signed on to the Paris climate agreement, which pledges to keep global warming to less than a global average of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and ideally below 1.5 degrees.

Climate change, carbon
Traffic moves as smoke emits from the chimney of a factory on the outskirts of Gauhati, India. VOA

Emissions from burning fossil fuels and other sources have already warmed the planet about 1 degree. At the current pace, temperatures will likely top 1.5 degrees by mid-century, according to the latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Zero emissions technologies such as wind farms and solar panels will not be enough to stop global warming, the U.N. report says. Negative emissions technologies will be needed as well.

Trees are tops

The National Academies panel looked at existing strategies for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and found four that are ready for widespread use.

The first is among the most tried-and-true: planting trees.

Climate change, carbon
The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory stands in Sebastiao do Uatuma located in the Amazon rain forest in Brazil’s Amazonas state, Aug. 22, 2015. The tower, built by Brazilian and German governments, collects data on greenhouse gases. VOA

“It’s even kind of a misnomer to call it a technology,” said Princeton University biologist Stephen Pacala, who chaired the panel.

Adding and restoring forests, plus better management of existing forests, are the two cheapest ways to get substantial amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, the report says.

Farm and ranch lands offer the next biggest and cheapest CO2 removal strategies.

Overused soils lose carbon, as well as nutrients. Rebuilding them increases their fertility and water-holding capacity.

“And you get a negative emission because the carbon comes from the atmosphere,” Pacala said.

“We know how to do quite a bit of this,” he added, with soil conservation techniques that began after the 1930s Dust Bowl in the U.S. Great Plains.

Amazon, Climate, carbon
This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows a deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil’s northern state of Para.. VOA

The fourth ready-to-go approach, the report says, is known as biomass energy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS. It generally involves burning or fermenting some kind of plant matter to produce electricity, fuel or heat, then capturing and storing the carbon emissions in underground sinks or elsewhere.

The report says BECCS has the biggest CO2 removal potential of the four but is also the most costly.

Big gap

Applied worldwide, these techniques together have the potential to pull up to 10 gigatons of CO2 out of the atmosphere per year.

The world emits about 50 gigatons per year.

Climate, Carbon removal
A facility for capturing CO2 from air of Swiss Climeworks AG is placed on the roof of a waste incinerating plant in Hinwil, Switzerland, July 18, 2017. VOA

The authors note that devoting more land to CO2 removal would mean diverting land needed to produce food and clothing.

For example, they say removing 10 gigatons of CO2 by BECCS alone would consume nearly 40 percent of the world’s cropland.

Even 10 gigatons of CO2 removal is extremely optimistic, the authors note. It assumes all the strategies are used to their fullest extent everywhere.

The panel also considered emerging technology that captures carbon dioxide directly from the air.

Currently, it is too expensive to be practical. But if the costs come down, Pacala said, it “would have essentially unlimited capacity to remove carbon.”

Climate, Carbon removal
The research has been conducted by C40 Cities, The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and the NewClimate Institute. VOA

Another promising approach would take advantage of the ability of certain naturally occurring minerals to react with CO2 and lock it up. But the authors say the fundamentals are poorly understood.

Also Read: A Warmer Winter For The US Due To El-Nino And Climate Change

The report outlines a detailed research agenda to maximize all of the strategies. It notes that while the U.S. federal government may have other priorities, U.S. states, cities, corporations and other countries around the world are investing in fighting climate change. The country where the tools are developed stands to gain an economic boost, it says. (VOA)

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Amazon Employees Risk Their Jobs by Criticizing Amazon’s Record on Climate Change

Workers Criticize Amazon on Climate Despite Risk to Jobs

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Amazon employees
Employees walk through a lobby at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle. VOA

Hundreds of employees are openly criticizing Amazon’s record on climate change despite what they say is a company policy that puts their jobs at risk for speaking out.

On Sunday, more than 300 employees of the online retail giant signed their names and job titles to statements on blog post on Medium. The online protest was organized by a group called Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, an advocacy group founded by Amazon workers that earlier this month said the company had sent letters to its members threatening to fire them if they continued to speak to the press.

“It’s our moral responsibility to speak up, and the changes to the communications policy are censoring us from exercising that responsibility,” said Sarah Tracy, a software development engineer at Amazon, in a statement.

Amazon employees at the company logistics centre in Boves
The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France. VOA

Amazon said that its policy on external communications is not new and is in keeping with other large companies. It said the policy applies to all Amazon employees and is not directed at any specific group.

“While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside the company that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems,” according to a spokesperson from the company.

Amazon, which relies on fossil fuels to power the planes, trucks and vans that ship packages all over the world, has an enormous carbon footprint. And its workers have been vocal in criticizing some of the company’s practices.

Also Read- Social Networking Giant Facebook Blames Apple iOS for Bezos’ Phone Hacking

Last year, more than 8,000 staffers signed an open letter to CEO and founder Jeff Bezos demanding that it cut its carbon emissions, end its use of fossil fuels and stop its work with oil companies that use Amazon’s technology to locate fossil fuel deposits.

The company said in a statement that it is passionate about climate change issues and has already pledged to become net zero carbon by 2040 and use 100% renewable energy by 2030. (VOA)