Have you heard about carbon capturing technology? It might sound a bit futuristic, but it's potentially a powerful part of the solution to the climate crisis. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have seen 1 degree C of global warming that is already impacting our planet through extreme weather and rising tides. Just about 5 degrees C separates our current world from the last ice age, and any increase in global temperature is detrimental to our planet's health.
We have less than 10 years before an uninhabitable Earth is inevitable. In order to change our trajectory and ensure a regenerative planet, we need a comprehensive approach to restore ecological balance including eliminating emissions, supporting natural carbon sinks, and investing in carbon sequestration opportunities that draw down as well.
Despite the movement toward renewable energy, coal, oil and natural gas demand hit a high in 2018. The United Nation has warned that we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030 - and many scientists go even further, stating that we need zero emissions by 2050. Becoming carbon neutral is vital, but we must take it even further and become carbon negative - which means integrating practices and technology that reduces the carbon footprint so much that you actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere instead of adding it. That’s where organizations like Climeworks come in. They're trying to capture CO2 directly out of the air.
How does it work? Using a machine that looks almost like a jet engine and a filter, fans draw air into a plant that CO2 becomes chemically bound to. Once it's captured, they mix the CO₂ with water used by a geothermal energy plant and pump it deep underground. Through natural processes, the CO₂ turns into stone within a few years, permanently and safely. The captured carbon dioxide can also be sold to use in carbonated drinks (Climeworks is partnering with Coca-Cola already) or as fuel for crops, so that the CO2 is no longer participating in the heating of the planet, but instead, is in use or stored in a non-harmful way.
More than 90% of the CO₂ captured by Climeworks is permanently put underground. Climeworks has launched three plants, one in Iceland, Italy, and Switzerland. In Iceland, the plant recently scaled so that it can capture 2,500 metric tons per year. That's good, but it is also relatively small when compared to the world's annual emissions. For perspective, each year we emit nearly 40 billion metric tons. In order to know if Climeworks can have great impact, we must do more research and if it is scalable, support their plants across the world quickly.
Here’s the thing: there is no one solution to the climate crisis. There is no perfect plan. It cannot be done by one industry, one company, or one country. It takes a global, collaborative, and urgent approach. Carbon capture technology may be part of the equation. As we work on all fronts to change the ways we live and address the damage we cause, we also must remedy what has already been done. To learn more about Climeworks, visit their website.