What is Carbon Sequestration?
Since the industrial revolution, we have seen sizable increases in greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted into the atmosphere. In fact, emissions have grown exponentially every year so that in 1970 the carbon component in the atmosphere was 325 parts per million and in 2019 it was 409 parts per million. This annual rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 60 years is about 100 times faster than previous natural increases, such as those that occurred at the end of the last ice age 11,000-17,000 years ago.
There is a global goal to keep temperatures below a 2 degree centigrade rise by 2100, a goal that seems only partially possible without greater action to reduce and prevent emissions or to find a way to increase carbon dioxide sequestration.
With industries around the world emitting 10 Gigatonnes (one billion metric tonnes) of GHGs every year, the need for carbon sequestration is dire. Here are some types of carbon sequestration that will hopefully be able to make an impact.
Carbon Sequestration Explained
Carbon dioxide sequestration is removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and putting them into long-term carbon storage to prevent the warming of the planet. It’s important to note the Earth has a natural process of CO2 sequestration in its oceans, forests, and grasslands. However, we are fast depleting our natural resources for carbon absorption.
So, we are also relying on technological innovation for carbon sequestration methods or solutions to help remove the massive amounts of carbon pollutants that have built up in the atmosphere over the last 150 years. So far, solutions are expensive on a cost per tonne basis ($70 or more) and not necessarily ready to deploy at scale. Companies and governments are creating funding designed to increase the speed of solutions while scientists improve tactics to stabilize and store carbon in either solid or dissolved states to inhibit it from heating the planet’s surface.
Why Should You Care About Carbon Sequestration?
Climate change is a global problem, and evidence has shown that man-made carbon dioxide production has pushed the planet outside the bounds of its normal warming and cooling cycles. Without a proper solution to carbon sequestration, we are already seeing effects of rising sea levels in places like Florida, Louisiana an Georgia and California., The ocean has already absorbed enough carbon dioxide to lower its pH by 0.1 units, a 30% increase in acidity (climate.gov) and a rising number of hurricanes related to the temperature of sea water
While we can hope that companies and industries will become carbon neutral as it stands, we are still too reliant on fossil fuels like oil and what is called Natural Gas, the gas piped into your home.(Natural gas is actually methane, a nasty carbon pollutant is a greenhouse gas more than 80 times as potent in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period) .
According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, 84% of the world’s energy is derived from fossil fuels. . Aside from it being a finite resource, it is composed of hydrocarbons, which, when burned, release vast amounts of CO2 and other global warming gases. The worst offender, coal, is cheap, supplied by the richest global industrialists, a main source of supply for the growing energy needs in the world’s most populous countries and poorest countries and is the fossil fuel in greatest supply. It is clear that until there are effective means of carbon sequestration, we’re going to continue to sustain damage to our environment.
Types of Carbon Sequestration
Researchers and scientists are investigating different methods of carbon sequestration including how to repurpose carbon dioxide as a different material altogether or to increase its value as a commoditized input for manufacturing.
Here are some types of carbon sequestration:
Biological carbon sequestration is natural storage of carbon dioxide. This includes storage in plants (naturally done through photosynthesis) trees, soil, and ocean carbon sequestration. The roots of plants and trees are excellent at carbon sequestration, storing vast amounts of carbon in there as well as in the leafy growth we see.
Currently, our oceans account for around one-quarter of carbon sequestration of the 10 gigatonnes of CO2 emitted annually by industry.
But the ocean only works as a stop-gap. In a process known as atmospheric flux, the ocean will absorb carbon (negative flux) and release it (positive flux.) The ocean can absorb more carbon in colder climates, which makes the rise in temperatures in polar regions more alarming.
Geological carbon sequestration is when CO2 is injected into porous geological rock formations. This type of carbon sequestration is currently being implemented in industrial production. Industries, such as steel, energy, and natural gas production, send carbon dioxide runoff deep into the earth, trapping it, so it doesn’t spill into the atmosphere.
But, according to SEI, geologic sequestration through carbon capture and storage (CCS) – is still a largely unproven approach. In particular, geologic reservoirs for CCS are finite, and the total viable long-term storage potential is unclear. This has led a number of commentators to warn against making premature assumptions about the reliability of “negative emission technologies”, and to argue for developing emission reduction targets separate from considerations about sequestration or negative emissions.
Technological carbon sequestration is an attempt to create a useful byproduct from excess carbon dioxide.
One group of scientists is perfecting a method that changes CO2 into methane and water. Methane can then be used as fuel for electricity or to power vehicles.
Scientists have explored the possibility of creating a raw material from CO2 and have created a substance called graphene. Graphene’s use is still limited, but you can already find it in devices such as your smartphone’s screen.
Other technological carbon sequestration methods are still in a nascent stage. Processes such as direct air capture can capture CO2 emissions in the atmosphere but is currently an uneconomical choice to use on a larger scale.
Would You Like to Know More?
If you are interested in natural carbon sequestration or carbon sequestration credits, contact Cool Effect. We’re a non-profit organization that helps carbon conscientious companies connect with high-quality projects and carbon offset programs.