Most nations have set themselves concrete climate goals. One of these is to limit the global temperature rise from climbing more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. Recent studies have unfortunately shown that reducing our carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas output won’t be enough to reach that set target.
To fight the rising temperatures, we will have to start extracting CO2 form the atmosphere, in addition to restricting the output of businesses. Using technologies to “suck” CO2 form the air seems futuristic but in reality, we already possess the means to do so, and some are actually not nearly as futuristic as one might anticipate. Additionally, the technologies are not that costly, as they only range between 20 and 100 US dollars per ton of CO2 extracted.
1. Coastal Blue Carbon
This fancy sounding method is merely research that states the untapped potential of increasing the carbon stored in living plants and sediments. The most effective place to store said CO2 is in marshy coastal areas, seashores and river banks, where no houses will be build anyways. When comparing these sorts of ecosystems to forests or other green lands, these wetland ecosystems can absorb and store the largest amount of CO2 per square meter of any of them.
If these fringe areas are restored, maintained and expanded to a degree, there is easily the potential for them to store and extract more than double the current rate of carbon dioxide form our atmosphere. Additionally, this would be a rather cost-effective option, as total costs would only arise to 20 dollars per ton of CO2 extracted from the atmosphere.
2. Planting Trees
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody, as global deforestation is often quoted as being one of the key factors of driving up emissions of carbon. In this sense, it is only logical that planting new trees and restoring deforested sites is a cheap and effective way to combat and extract CO2 from the atmosphere. However, scientists seem to know more about which trees are best suited for quick and cheap production of wood, than about which trees and plants are the most effective in extracting CO2 from our atmosphere.
Planting trees is still one of the cheaper options as overall costs will amount to less than 20 US dollars per ton of CO2 absorbed. The main downside to this measure is that it will take up a vast amount of space to attain the desired reduction rate.
3. Forest Management
Next to planting more trees, improved carbon absorption rates can be achieved through a better forest management, as this practice is not as widespread. This measure would also not exceed 20 dollars per ton of carbon emissions absorbed.
Techniques to achieve this feat would include accelerated restocking of forests after disasters like wildfires or tornados but also to extend the life-span of forests determined for wood or paper production.
4. Agricultural Practices
We know that agriculture and food production is a massive contributor to carbon emissions. But there are some measures that can be undertaken and would not limit the output of farmland. These measures would cost something between 20 to 100 dollars per ton of CO2 absorbed.
One of the ways to achieve this is for farmers to plant ‘cover crops’ when their fields are not in commercial usage. Other measures include adding biochar to the soil as it will allow the soil to absorb and store more carbon in addition to improving the overall quality of the soil.
5. Biomass energy with carbon capture & storages (BECCS)
Basically stated, the idea behind BECCS is that one could grow energy crops that are extremely efficient at soaking up CO2. Then those energy crops could be burned to create energy, releasing the CO2 gas, which can in turn be captured and permanently buried underground. Although not all the CO2 gas released could be captured and effectively stored, the net total would still amount to negative emissions, which is the goal.
However, this method is a bit pricier, ranging from 20 to 100 dollars. Another potential downside is that if the environmental goals set by the various nations were to be reached through this measure alone, we would need vast amounts of space. Some studies show that an area of roughly 40% of global cropland would be needed.
In conclusion, it can be stated that most of these technologies are very affordable and scalable in addition to being able to safely store large amounts of CO2. However, those measures alone and at the current rate of exploitation cannot be sufficient to curb climate change. We still need to be mindful and reduce our carbon emissions as well as other greenhouse gases.
There is also a moral hazard that arises through the creation of cheap CO2 reduction technologies, as these might lead to people being less prone to reduce their emissions and to reduced usage of fossil fuels. And this is not at all what researchers want to achieve through the application of these technologies.