December, 2021

8 Main Ways to Clean Up Carbon Dioxide from Our Air

Your Questions Answered

As travelers we are frequently encouraged to support climate action projects; this handy list breaks down all the ways carbon dioxide is removed from the air. Learn this list of eight and recognize that we’ll need all of them working together to help restore our climate. 

1, 2, 3: Soil, forests and coastal areas clean up carbon dioxide by photosynthesis. Organisms such as soil, tress, and coastal ecosystems - think such as mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes -  absorb carbon dioxide from the air. In this case carbon dioxide is stored in the same place it was collected.

4: Ocean: The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide through diffusion – a difference in pressure in the atmosphere and the ocean that causes carbon dioxide to be absorbed by the water. The carbon dioxide moves from the air to the water, when the atmospheric pressure of carbon dioxide is higher.  The ocean plays a critical role in carbon storage, as it holds about 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere. Two-way carbon exchange can occur quickly between the ocean’s surface waters and the atmosphere, but carbon may be stored for centuries at the deepest ocean depths.

5:  Direct air capture is a technological method of cleaning up carbon dioxide.
Air filter machines collect carbon dioxide from the air and then direct it deep into geological formations for storage. The carbon dioxide collected from the air in this way can also be converted to stable carbonate minerals or other long-lived products such as carbon fibres.

6, 7, 8:  Biochar, Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), and Enhanced Weathering  These solutions use natural plants to capture carbon dioxide from air but then add in the use of engineering tools to deliver longer-lasting storage options. 

Biochar is created from plant biomass. (Plant biomass is organic material that comes from plants such as wood and wood processing waste, or agricultural crops and waste materials such as corn, soybeans, sugar cane.) Biochar retains carbon for centuries and if mixed with soil, improves soil quality by retaining moisture and nutrients. 

In Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), biomass is burned for power generation and the resulting carbon dioxide is stripped from the flue gas and stored in geologic formations as in the direct air capture solution. 

Enhanced weathering speeds up the natural carbon cycle. Finely ground silicate rock is spread on agricultural lands or beaches where the chemical reactions between rocks, water and air that naturally absorb carbon dioxide are accelerated.

Sources:

World Economic Forum Net-Zero to Net Negative

Carbon Dioxide Removal Primer

SwissRe Carbon Removal and Insurance

CarbonBrief

NOAA.GOV



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