Trees are vitally important to our success in tackling global warming and climate change.
As the Earth’s ‘lungs and liver,’ trees, and especially forests, provide a critical healing role by removing carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gas emissions from the air, retaining these, as ‘carbon sinks’ if left undisturbed, while also releasing life-giving oxygen back into the environment.
Trees also play a role in moderating some of the negative impacts of climate change, by for example, helping to reduce flooding, strengthening resilience where they promote ecosystem biodiversity, and in some cases, acting as fire retardants, when their own native forest biodiversity is sustained and protected.
Changing human behaviour and economic practices to avoid for, reduce and offset, harmful greenhouse gas emissions remain the key, however, to our long-term success for generations ahead.
In past Blogs, we have looked at ways in which we, as individuals, may become more knowledgeable and mindful of our own carbon footprints (see, for example the Carbon Calculators in the Resources section https://friends4trees4life.com/resources/ , and, Lucy’s New Year’s Resolution blog post https://bit.ly/3hql1zX). We have profiled community action (e.g., Eden Mills, Ontario); country, international and NGO actions; and, illustrated business and economic sector actions to lead transformational change toward a viable, healthy carbon neutral, or even carbon negative, future.
Some, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), argue that stepped up action on capturing carbon emissions is needed, even while the main focus should continue to be on avoiding and reducing emissions in the first instance. They say human efforts and innovations are needed to augment the heavy lifting done by trees – the scope and scale of the climate change challenge is just that enormous.
So, today’s post looks at innovation in carbon capture. Admittedly, it remains a controversial topic. Some are concerned that it distracts and detracts from keeping a necessary laser focus on reducing or ideally avoiding, emissions.
First, let’s start with this helpful CBC primer on what is carbon capture, and why some view it as so important for the way forward.
“Carbon capture: What you need to know about catching CO2 to fight climate change”
“If global warming is caused by too much carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by human activities, intercepting those greenhouse gases before they reach the atmosphere — or, better yet, sucking them right out of the sky — sounds like a logical solution.”
“That’s the promise of carbon capture technologies, one of the few climate change solutions that doesn’t just reduce the amount of carbon emitted, but can actually remove carbon from the atmosphere, thereby generating ‘negative emissions.’ “
“It may in fact be essential if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial times — the more stringent of two targets under the Paris accord that aim to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Last year’s special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found carbon dioxide removal was needed in every successful scenario to cancel out emissions from sources for which no mitigation measures have been identified — things like long-distance air travel and cement production.”
“The International Energy Agency calls carbon capture a ‘critical tool in the climate energy toolbox.’ “
“Here’s what you need to know about the technology.”
What is carbon capture?
“It’s a range of technologies that either:
- Stop carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, often by “filtering out” the carbon dioxide en route to the smokestack of a facility such as a power plant or factory.
- Remove carbon dioxide that’s already in the air, a process known as ‘direct air capture.’ “
“In both cases, the CO2-containing gases or air are typically absorbed by a solvent or solution, and then separated out again later.”
“So far, most carbon capture projects around the world have been the former, as carbon dioxide concentrations are much higher coming out of a source like a furnace — CO2 makes up just 0.04 per cent of the air — making it cheaper and easier to extract.”
What happens to the carbon after it’s captured?
“It can either be:
- Permanently stored underground (carbon capture and storage).
- Converted into a carbon-containing product (carbon capture and utilization).”
“Most of the projects in Canada so far have been carbon capture and storage, where the carbon dioxide is used to push more oil out of aging oil wells and then stored underground in air pockets in the porous rock of depleted wells, with a “cap stone” on top to prevent leakage.”
Where are carbon capture plants located?
“As of 2018, there were 18 large-scale commercial facilities in operation around the world, five under construction and 20 in other stages of development, according to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, a think-tank based in Melbourne, Australia.”
“Four are located in Canada:
- Boundary Dam, a coal-fired power plant operated by SaskPower that started capturing carbon in 2014.
- Quest, an oilsands project run by Shell Canada that started capturing carbon in 2015.
- Weyburn, which captures CO2 from a North Dakota-based coal gasification and power plant, and transports it by pipeline to the Weyburn oilfield in Saskatchewan.
- Alberta Carbon Trunk Line, which is set to begin operations later this year, and will take emissions from the Redwater Fertilizer factory and the Northwest Redwater (NWR) refinery currently under construction to aging oil reservoirs in central and southern Alberta.”
Readers may want to learn more by reading the full CBC article (September 2019), which includes a discussion of why some view it as crucial technology even though currently it is not making much of a dent in emissions, and the reasons why others remain “sceptical or critical of carbon capture,”: https://bit.ly/2BmHVZR.
Promoting Innovations in Carbon Capture and Utilization
Below are links to a CBC article and the xPrize.org website, both of which profile innovations in carbon capture and utilization, supported through incentive funding by two groups – Emissions Reduction Alberta, and, Canada’s Oilsands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) in partnership with the Xprize Foundation.
Why would Emissions Reduction Alberta put up $35 million to promote business innovation in carbon capture?
CBC offers one compelling explanation – “The potential may be big. A McKinsey & Company report last year done on behalf of the Global CO2 Initiative said that carbon products — especially in concrete, plastics, fuel, and carbon fibre — could be a market worth between $800 billion US and $1.1 trillion US by 2030.” To learn more about innovations by companies such as CarbonCure’s enhanced concrete, read the full article (March 2017) at: https://bit.ly/3hrMocZ
This Xprize.org website offers the goal and rationale for the purse prize for the “$20 million NRG COSIA CarbonX Prize” aimed at developing “…breakthrough techonologies to convert CO2 emissions to usable products.” It also profiles the contest’s 10 international finalists chosen from among 27 semi-finalists
The finalists come from Scotland, India, China, the US and Canada and are grouped into two “tracks” – five teams in the Wyoming Track that will “demonstrate conversion of CO2 emissions at a coal-fueled plant in Gillette, WY.,” and five teams in the Alberta Track that will “demonstrate conversion of CO2 emissions at a natural-gas fueled plant in Alberta.”
The four Canadian finalists are:
Carbon Upcycling Technologies (Calgary): “Led by Apoorv Sinha, the team is producing enhanced graphic nanoparticles and graphene derivatives with applications in polymers, concrete, epoxies, batteries and pharmaceuticals;”
Carbicrete (Montreal): “Led by Dr. Mehrdad Mahoutian, the team is producing cement-free, carbon-negative concrete that uses waste from steel production on an alternative to traditional cement;”
CERT (Toronto): “Led by Dr. Alex Ip of the Sargent Group at the University of Toronto, the team is producing building blocks of industrial chemicals;”
CarbonCure (Dartmouth): “Led by Jennifer Wagner, the team is producing stronger, greener concrete.” https://bit.ly/2ZPoFNM
Last word for today goes to Nature and, of course, the trees.
There is a recent, growing movement in Europe – rewilding – that takes the idea of tree planting for climate action to another level.
Here’s what the RewildingEurope.com website says about rewilding:
“Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats.” https://bit.ly/2WJiitq
Rewilding Europe presents its compelling case for rewilding in its 101-page Annual Review 2019 report:
“From climate change mitigation to enhanced health and wellbeing, nature has the answers to many of society’s most pressing challenges. On International Biodiversity Day, Rewilding Europe’s latest annual review shows how investing in wild nature can make the world more livable for everyone.” https://bit.ly/2CCn0m4
In this report, Readers may learn about the principles of rewilding, European rewilding facts and figures (including engagement by 16 countries), and the impact of rewilding projects in areas with intriguing names such as, the Rhodope Mountains, Greater Coa Valley, Southern Carpathians, Central Apennines, Swedish Lapland, Velebit Mountains, Danube Delta, and Oder Delta.
There is even information to entice those who want to “Make Your Next Vacation a Wild One” !
Rewilding is catching hold in the UK, with big plans and a widening mission to be announced later in 2020, according to this news item by RewildingBritain.org – “New network to spearhead rapid rewilding across Britain,” – “A new project spearheading rapid and massively upscaled rewilding will be launched by Rewilding Britain later this year, to tackle the nature and climate emergencies, and help boost green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.” The charity explains that —
“With nature faring worse in the UK than in most other countries, and many people wanting Britain to ‘build back better’ from the coronavirus pandemic, the charity’s new Rewilding Network will aim to create a rewilding snowball effect by bringing together hundreds of people from across Britain – including landowners, farmers, land managers, community groups and local authorities – who are rewilding land or considering doing so.”
“Initially the Network will aim to catalyse and support the rewilding of at least 300,000 acres of land – an area the size of Greater Manchester or North York Moors National Park – plus marine areas within the next three years.”
“Rewilding Britain says bold action is needed to reverse the collapse in UK wildlife, which has left 56% of species in decline and 15% threatened with extinction, and to tackle climate breakdown. Red squirrels, capercaillie, and pollinating insects such as the great yellow bumblebee are among many species facing a bleak future, while returns or rebounds of species like beavers, sea eagles and pine martens are happening slowly.”
“ ‘We need to hit the reset button for our relationship with the natural world, and rebuild our lives and economies in ways that keep nature and us healthy,’ said Rebecca Wrigley, Rewilding Britain’s Chief Executive.”
“ ‘Our Rewilding Network will help propel rewilding to a whole new level – so we can all begin to enjoy a Britain rich in wildlife again, with healthy living systems soaking up millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, and our lives enriched by wild nature and strong resilient communities, regenerative farms and nature-friendly businesses.’ ”
Read and learn more at: https://bit.ly/2CWyCAg.