The Rise of Carbon Dioxide Removal #5
CDR in the news, what is it, why is it important, and what CDR methods are there
A cool welcome to the fourth Expedition newsletter of Survivaltech.club!
This week, we will learn about Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) - ways to get the excess CO2 out from the atmosphere.
Some of you may have noticed in Survivaltech.club’s social media that I also launched The Pioneers-interview series this week! In this series, I interview and share the learnings from climate startup founders, investors, and researchers.
Our first guest in the series is Fredrik Åkerman, CEO & Co-Founder of Volta Greentech. Read the interview here and learn how Volta Greentech uses seaweed to reduce the methane emissions from the world’s cows!
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Carbon Dioxide Removal in the news
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) has been topping the news lately.
Stripe, an online payments processor, announced its new carbon removal purchases worth $8M from six CDR companies recently. Stripe did its first carbon removal purchases from four companies already last year and open-sourced their source materials.
Heirloom was one of the CDR companies that Stripe is now purchasing carbon removal from. Heirloom uses minerals and a process called enhanced weathering to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
Carbo Culture just raised $6.2M in seed funding. Carbo Culture has scaled an industrial process to create large-scale CO2 removal using woody waste from agriculture and forests.
Shopify, an e-commerce giant, launched its Sustainability Fund in 2019 and committed to buy $1M of sequestered carbon annually. Shopify has also released a playbook on the carbon removal market.
CarbonPlan, a non-profit organization analyzing carbon removal technologies, released The CDR Primer, a complete handbook on carbon removal, this January.
The list could go on and on. What is sure is that there is a completely new market forming around carbon dioxide removal at a high speed.
Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England and one of the organizers of the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets estimates that the unified market for carbon offsets could be worth $100B by the end of this decade. Wow.
What is Carbon Dioxide Removal?
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) means removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it so that it cannot enter the atmosphere for a long time. This long-term storage of CO2 is called sequestration in science.
With CDR, there will be fewer CO2 molecules in the atmosphere. Less CO2 molecules, on the other hand, means that there less infrared radiation (=heat) arriving from the Earth gets absorbed and re-emitted back to the Earth. (For more details or to refresh your memory, see The Expedition #1: Laying the foundations for climate action)
Why is CDR important?
Our humankind needs to start both:
Slashing those greenhouse gas emissions &
Pulling greenhouse gases from the atmosphere (CDR)
Both approaches are necessary to limit global warming to 2℃, not to mention 1.5℃. In no scenario can we treat CDR as a silver bullet for climate change and postpone reducing emissions.
However, we have already emitted so much greenhouse gases that pulling some of them out is necessary. Since 1751, our humankind has emitted over 1.5 trillion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The IPCC noted in its 2018 report that “all pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) on the order of 100–1000 GtCO2 over the 21st century.”
We need to yearly remove 10 Gigatons (Gt) of CO2 by 2050 and then ramp up to 20 Gt of CO2 by 2100 to limit the warming below 2℃ according to UNEP. For 1.5℃, the scale would be significantly larger.
The longer we wait with slashing CO2 emissions, the more critical CDR technologies will become for the survival of our humankind.
What CDR methods are there?
CDR methods can be categorized into three buckets:
Quick note: I like to categorize and draw stuff to make sense of the complex world surrounding me. That’s why I started this mind map in Miro. I will fill weekly when exploring different climate challenges and science-based solutions.
Back to CDRs! Each of the three categories holds multiple possible solutions.
1. Biological solutions
Restoration and forest management
Soil carbon sequestration
Soil amendments and nutrient management
2. Engineered solutions
Direct Air Capture (DAC)
Carbon Capture and Use (CCU)
3. Hybrid Solutions
Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage
Aquatic and terrestrial algae and biological communities
I’ll go through these solutions in detail in the upcoming deep dives. However, if you want to have a head start, I can highly recommend The CDR Primer and Carbon180’s report “Building a new carbon economy: An Innovation Plan”.
Each CDR solution differs from each other by their scalability and cost. What doesn’t surprise is that engineered solutions tend to cost more than biological solutions.
Building a New Carbon Economy: An Innovation Plan by Carbon180
We Need To Take CO2 Out of The Sky by Ryan Orbuch
Climate technology primer (2/3): CO2 removal by Longitudinal Science
Cool Science Videos
Neil deGrasse Tyson: What is Dark Matter? What is Dark Energy?
I hope you enjoyed taking the first look into CDR technologies! We’ll continue diving deeper into the specific technologies in the upcoming newsletters. What would you like to learn next? Email me!
I would love to hear your feedback, comments, and ideas. Email me here!
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Until next week!