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Can mass carbon capture really work?

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If we want to keep earth from warming more than a few degrees, we probably need to supercharge the natural processes that regulate CO2...and quick. Or we can invent some new methods to suck carbon out of the sky at an even bigger scale. The question is, can we capture all that carbon before earth becomes too hot for us? Can carbon capture on a massive scale really work?

Additional Resources for you to Explore

For a sweeping overview of the power of engineered and more natural carbon removal, check out Gabrielle Walker's "What You Need to Know About Carbon Removal"

To dig into the complexities and technical aspects of carbon capture, check out "The Reality of Carbon."

Carbon Capture

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an essential tool in our efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change. It involves capturing carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes, power plants, and other sources before they are released into the atmosphere and storing them underground or repurposing them for other uses. This technology can help reduce emissions from some of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, such as fossil fuel power plants and heavy industry, allowing us to continue using these energy sources while transitioning to a low-carbon future. While carbon capture technology is not a silver bullet and must be used in conjunction with other strategies, it has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the urgent challenge of climate change.

One way to store carbon is by injecting it into concrete, which, when done well, makes the concrete stronger. This process could create economic incentives for carbon removal and help to decarbonize a carbon intense sector.

Direct Air Capture

Direct air capture (DAC) is a technology that involves removing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere. This is done by using chemical processes to capture CO2 molecules from the air, which can then be stored underground or utilized in various industrial applications. Unlike other forms of carbon capture, which capture CO2 emissions from specific sources like power plants or industrial processes, DAC can remove CO2 from any location, making it a promising technology for reducing atmospheric carbon levels. However, DAC is expensive and energy-intensive, and significant advancements are needed to make it a viable option for widespread implementation. Investment and government subsidies can reduce the cost curve for direct air capture and other carbon removal technologies. Nonetheless, as the urgency of addressing climate change grows, the development and deployment of DAC technology may become increasingly important.

Biochar

Biochar is a type of charcoal produced from biomass such as wood, crop residues, or manure through a process known as pyrolysis. The resulting charcoal is a porous material that can be used as a soil amendment to improve soil health and sequester carbon. When added to soil, biochar can improve soil fertility, increase water retention, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from soil. Additionally, biochar has the potential to sequester carbon in the soil for hundreds or even thousands of years, making it an effective carbon removal technology. Biochar can be produced using a range of feedstocks and production methods. It has the potential to provide numerous co-benefits, such as reducing waste, improving agricultural productivity, and promoting sustainable land use practices.

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About Earth School

We can save the world. Speed and Scale shows us how to unlock a cleaner, healthier and safer future by laying out a roadmap that will get us to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. How’s it going to work? We need to electrify transportation, decarbonize the grid, fix food, protect nature, clean up industry and remove carbon. To learn how we’re going to do all that - and to learn how you can take action now - explore this page.

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