There is no one solution to saving the planet from the impacts of climate change. We need to commit to a variety of approaches to tackle the issue from many directions to truly make a difference. Klaus Lackner, a professor at Arizona State University and director of the Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions, puts it best:
“Our ignoring the climate change problem for so long has eliminated our other options, the problem, left to itself, only gets bigger.”
The problem is indeed only getting bigger. So, while cutting our future emissions is a great first step, the world still needs to absorb some of the CO2 currently trapped in the atmosphere. This can potentially be done in one of two ways.
The simplest solution is the most natural one; planting trees and shrubs. Trees and shrubs naturally gather CO2 as part of their growth method. This option is often overlooked by policy makers in favour of more marketable technology-based alternatives. Yet this inexpensive, leafy green option helps drastically reduce the effects of climate change. The value of reforestation cannot be understated. It’s cheaper, more efficient and needs less maintenance than technology-based alternatives. A 2017 peer reviewed study, led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions, calculated that natural climate solutions could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11.3 billion tonnes per year. That is the equivalent of halting the burning of oil and offering 37% of the reductions needed to keep global warming below 2°C by 2030. And saving the trees we already have also goes a long way. Currently, deforestation is estimated to cause about 15% of emissions. Putting greater focus on preserving trees will not only cut back our emissions but will also boost the amount of carbon dioxide being sucked out of the atmosphere. It’s a clear win-win scenario.
2.Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies
Machine-based solutions, while more cumbersome and expensive, might be the answer where planting trees is not viable. The technology to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and safely store it in geological formations already exists, but it is expensive and has been slow to catch on. Initial efforts to sequester carbon through technology have had several setbacks. One example is Chevron’s Gorgon gas facility in Western Australia. Its $60 million taxpayer funded project to absorb carbon from the atmosphere has been at the mercy of technical issues. The project has been delayed to the point that Gorgon have finally applied for the initial licence – more than two years after the company publicly stated they were planning to do so.
The pressure to act is building. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change clearly stated in its address to policy makers in 2018 that we were not likely to reach the necessary emissions goals to counteract climate change without carbon capture and storage policies. Governments and large corporations are starting to invest massively in artificial carbon capture and storage technologies, but progress has been slow due to the associated high costs. Businesses of any size – businesses just like yours – can combat climate change by supporting reforestation or buying carbon credits to offset emissions.
Carbon Neutral’s Plant-a-Tree program plants mixed native species in the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor. The natural environment is being restored while carbon is being sequestered from the atmosphere. Carbon Neutral also offers offsets from innovative projects around the world, which work to either prevent emissions or sequester carbon from the atmosphere.