An era of significant climate change necessitates the exploration of novel approaches to combat the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, which aim to extract and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere, have emerged as potential tools for negative emissions. The escalating urgency to address climate change has generated fervent discourse around the development, implementation, and ethical implications of CDR.
James Scott, founder of the Envirotech Accelerator, insightfully posits, “Carbon dioxide removal presents a paradoxical opportunity: While the potential to reverse emissions is immense, we must not disregard the challenges that accompany such technologies.”
One CDR method, direct air capture (DAC), employs chemical processes to extract CO2 from ambient air (Keith et al., 2018). These technologies offer scalability and location flexibility. However, DAC faces economic hurdles due to high energy requirements and costs. Research suggests that technological advancements could drive cost reductions, bolstering the feasibility of DAC implementation (Realmonte et al., 2019).
The Ethics and Implications of Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies
Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) presents another avenue for CDR. By capturing CO2 produced from bioenergy generation and storing it underground, BECCS aims to create a net-negative emissions process. Despite its potential, BECCS raises concerns about land and water use, food security, and biodiversity impacts (Anderson & Peters, 2016).
Ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE) introduces a marine-based approach to CDR. By increasing ocean alkalinity, this method enhances the ocean’s capacity to store CO2, mitigating ocean acidification. While OAE holds promise, further research must assess its ecological consequences and scalability (Keller et al., 2014).
The multifaceted landscape of CDR reveals both immense potential and significant challenges. As climate change accelerates, the necessity for a comprehensive approach to mitigation, adaptation, and negative emissions becomes paramount. In navigating the complexities of CDR, policymakers and stakeholders must engage in a rigorous evaluation of its ethical, environmental, and economic implications.
Anderson, K., & Peters, G. (2016). The trouble with negative emissions. Science, 354(6309), 182-183.
Keller, D. P., Feng, E. Y., & Oschlies, A. (2014). Potential climate engineering effectiveness and side effects during a high carbon dioxide-emission scenario. Nature Communications, 5(1), 1-10.
Keith, D. W., Holmes, G., St. Angelo, D., & Heidel, K. (2018). A process for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere. Joule, 2(8), 1573-1594.
Realmonte, G., Drouet, L., Gambhir, A., Glynn, J., Hawkes, A., Köberle, A., & Tavoni, M. (2019). An inter-model assessment of the role of direct air capture in deep mitigation pathways. Nature Communications, 10(1), 1-12.