VIDEO: What Is and Is Not Carbon Removal

These might be the most informative three minutes you spend online today, as climate expert and advisor Eli Mitchell-Larson (due to technical difficulties appearing as Andrew McEvoy) of Oxford University clarifies different types of carbon removal. As helpful for travelers as it is for companies and destinations sorting out their climate strategies, Eli steps us through a single basic chart to help us understand the differences and connection points between carbon removal technologies and natural systems that absorb carbon dioxide.

Here’s the summary:

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR)

  • Any technique that take CO2 molecules out of the air and stores them.

Direct Air Capture Carbon Storage (DACCS)

  • Direct Air Capture with carbon storage exists at the intersection of carbon removal and carbon capture and storage. This means pulling carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in an underground geologic formation.

Conventional Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

  • This is when a company equips a smokestack with scrubbing technology to remove carbon dioxide as it is being emitted.

Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS)

  • This can be any instance where carbon dioxide is used for some purpose. Biochar is an exciting pathway which is a form of carbon removal that also involves utilization. (See a short background on biochar here). Biochar keeps carbon dioxide locked up while also offering up a useful benefit in the agriculture context where it can improve yields. 

Circular Fuels, Another Form of Carbon Capture and Utilization

  • Circular fuels are helpful, because they can displace conventional fossil fuels which have a significant impact on our atmosphere. However circular fuels do not actually remove carbon dioxide from the air. 

CCS Point Source Carbon Capture and Storage

  • In instance, imagine stopping emissions from hitting the atmosphere. In the case of a power plant for example, or a cement facility -  an industrial source of emissions - emissions are captured and then stored. This is not removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, however it does reduce emissions in the atmosphere and results in safe storage.

The clip closes with a key takeaway, which is explaining that many carbon credits consumers purchase are not in fact removals. Offsets are emissions avoidance or reduction - paying someone else not to deforest, for example. Eli notes that this is a valuable activity, and we definitely want to prevent existing ecosystems from being destroyed. He also elaborates on concerns around whether paying for these types of offsets actually delivers a climate outcome in all cases, however. Eli shares an example involving deforestation in the form of a scenario: “what would the deforestation have been if not for the purchase of the carbon credit?” Answering this question is very challenging to define conclusively as in some cases the system is gamed.

Learn the full story when you view the video, recorded during the Carbon Free Travel Future in the Tomorrow’s Travel track at the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s 2021 World Summit in partnership with Hokkaido, Japan.

Photo courtesy: Climeworks

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