Carbon Dioxide Removal: Will These Methods Work?

4 Methods For Removing Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

4 Methods for Carbon Dioxide Removal

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris this past November, a goal was set to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius which is a significant step in the fight against climate change. To achieve this goal, all countries have committed to taking active efforts to reduce their carbon dioxide output going forward.

But what can be done about the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere? We found four methods of CO2 removal currently being explored that could slow down or even stop the effects of climate change.

Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage: An exciting method that can actually result in negative CO2 output, BECCS uses biomass to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it grows.  The CO2 is then captured via combustion and stored underground. Not without its flaws, much investment and research is needed to perfect the technology behind the process, but there is an enormous amount of potential to get the job done cost effectively.

Biochar: When you heat bio-waste without the presence of oxygen – usually by gasification or pyrolysis – the result is a kind of charcoal that not only enriches the soil, but also holds on to the CO2 found within for hundreds of thousands of years. As an added bonus, the oil and gas byproducts derived from the process can be considered a source for clean, renewable energy. Skeptics argue that the amount of biochar needed to quickly make an impact on climate change could potentially disrupt food production and cause unforeseen economic impacts in the long run if not properly regulated.

Enhanced Weathering: The slow breakdown of rocks in the ocean over an extended period of time and the chemical reaction that happens as a result is an important part of the natural carbon cycle.  Some believe that by artificially enhancing this “weathering” process, more CO2 can be “locked up” at a faster rate, thus helping to offset the effects of climate change. However, more research is needed as large scale geo-engineering can pose risks to the level of toxic heavy metals in the environment and alter the PH levels of the ocean.

Direct Air Capture: Perhaps the most promising of all is the concept of removing carbon dioxide directly from the ambient air we breathe via a method called Direct Air Capture. Privately funded by socially conscious minded philanthropists, startup ventures like Carbon Engineering out of Squamish, British Columbia are working on technology to eventually pull millions of tons of CO2 out of the air in a sort of purification process that creates byproducts that can be used as renewable fuels. Forward thinking innovators are making massive investments into the future of this technology because they see the potential for commercial gains down the line.

We’re excited to see which methods can be proven and how much funding it will take to make it happen.

Cari Oberfield