In an era where climate change poses a significant threat to our planet, carbon capture technology emerges as a crucial tool for ecommerce business owners to understand and integrate into their sustainability strategies. This technology, aimed at reducing atmospheric CO2 levels, offers a path towards mitigating global warming and achieving a more sustainable future for all.
So, what exactly is carbon capture technology, is it feasible, and will it be enough to keep our planet’s temperatures below catastrophic levels? Let’s take a look.
What Is Carbon Capture?
Carbon capture is a technology designed to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from sources like power plants and industrial facilities, or directly from the atmosphere, to mitigate global warming. It involves capturing CO2 emissions at their source, transporting them to a storage site, and depositing them underground in geological formations or using them in various industrial processes to prevent their release into the atmosphere. This innovative approach aims to lower the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, helping to combat climate change and move towards a more sustainable future.
Carbon capture technologies, while promising, come with a high price tag, making widespread adoption challenging. The crux of the issue lies in scaling these technologies affordably, a feat that nature has effortlessly achieved over eons through processes like photosynthesis and carbon sequestration in forests and oceans.
Nature’s role in regulating our planet extends beyond carbon management, offering a myriad of environmental and social co-benefits such as biodiversity conservation, water filtration, and climate regulation. This underscores the importance of integrating natural solutions alongside technological advancements in our fight against climate change. See our impact projects to see this in action.
Why Carbon Capture And Removal Matters
The fact is that greenhouse gasses, which are made up of around 79% CO2, are the key contributors to climate change. To put it simply, it works as a sort of blanket to trap heat and keep the earth warm. At normal CO2 levels, this is a good thing—it prevents heat from escaping and plummeting the earth into unlivable temperatures. However, since the industrial era, humans have been pumping too much CO2 into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise.
Currently, the earth’s temperature is about 1.2° C above pre-industrial levels. Because carbon dioxide emissions are higher than ever before—they rose by 90% between 1970 and 2004, and in 2019, CO2 concentrations were higher than they have been within the last 800,000 years—the global average temperature is rising at a dangerous rate. According to the United Nations, at the current rate and without stronger reduction targets, the world will warm to 2.7° C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Although these numbers seem small, the result will be catastrophic. Warming contributes to extreme weather events like floods, hurricanes, and forest fires, which we’re already experiencing. As a global community, we must work to reduce our carbon emissions. Failure to achieve our targets could result in disaster.
Different Carbon Capture Technologies
Trove’s classification system offers a detailed view of the voluntary carbon market, categorizing around 4,000 registered and 2,600 pipeline projects across major crediting registries. This diversity, from reforestation in Uruguay to wind farms in Turkey, highlights the market’s capacity to support varied environmental goals. This also includes emerging carbon removal technologies like direct air capture, biochar, and enhanced rock weathering, reflecting the market’s adaptability to new environmental strategies.
The most well-known carbon capture and storage technologies used today are:
- Direct Air Capture (DAC): Utilizes chemical processes to capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere, allowing for the storage or utilization of carbon in various industries.
- Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): Involves capturing CO2 emissions from industrial and energy-related sources, then transporting and storing it underground in geological formations.
- Biochar: Produces a stable form of carbon by heating organic material in a low-oxygen environment, which can then be used to enrich soil and sequester carbon.
- Enhanced Rock Weathering: Accelerates natural geological processes to capture and store carbon dioxide in mineral form.
- Nature Restoration: Focuses on restoring ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and peatlands to enhance their natural carbon absorption capabilities.
- REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation): Aims to prevent deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, promoting sustainable forest management and enhancing forest carbon stocks.
- Renewable Energy Projects: While not directly capturing carbon, these projects reduce the need for fossil fuel-based energy production, indirectly preventing carbon emissions.
- Energy Efficiency Projects: Improve energy usage efficiency in various sectors, reducing overall carbon emissions by lowering energy demand.
- Peatland Restoration: Targets the restoration of peatlands, which are significant carbon sinks, to prevent carbon release and enhance carbon sequestration.
- Blue & Coastal Carbon Projects: Focus on restoring and preserving coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangroves and seagrasses, which are highly effective at sequestering carbon.
While most people think of Direct Air Capture (DAC) and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as the most prominent carbon capture technologies, Nature Restoration and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries) still have the greatest impact on removing carbon dioxide from the environment. EcoCart emphasizes nature-based impact projects, recognizing their significant role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere, alongside providing environmental and social benefits.
Policy Considerations And Incentives
Through a combination of efforts—emission reduction, carbon removal, and carbon capture technology—it is possible to reach the targets set forth by the Paris Agreement and stop global temperature rise. However, it requires a framework for certified carbon removals to ensure that offsetting and removal efforts are comprehensive.
Carbon removal initiatives can be supported by policies that enact standardization while also incentivizing novel approaches. Our tried and true methods are not enough. If we have any hope of reaching, and ideally exceeding, targets, then we need a portfolio of carbon removal technology so that we can address the shortcomings that are involved in each approach.
The economic aspect: invest in carbon removal
According to investment trends, interest in carbon removal stocks is on the rise. This shows that, even without policies, the market sees potential in carbon capture technology. Furthermore, policymakers are working to create a market in which carbon removal is economically viable.
The Inflation Reduction Act, for example, improves the availability of tax credits for carbon capture, incentivizing its usage. Furthermore, the current administration has funded $3.7 billion toward projects focused on carbon dioxide removal. These will help fund businesses, technology, and research all focused on carbon removal technology. Government investments such as these show the potential for job creation, carbon removal companies, and economic growth.
The environmental impact: balancing benefits and risks
It’s clear that carbon removal technology is needed to reach net zero targets. However, every approach has its own impact and often fails to be comprehensive. For example, historical land use rights and other governmental red tape can make reforestation projects complicated, while tech like BECCS is expensive. Therefore, we cannot rely upon one single approach. Instead, we should pursue a variety of strategies so that our efforts are complete.
The critiques on carbon capture technology are:
- It is significantly more expensive than other climate project types, diverting funds from more cost-effective initiatives.
- Its scalability has yet to be proven.
- It diverts focus from nature-based projects and solutions, which have already demonstrated scalability.
- Unlike other projects, it lacks additional benefits such as improved livelihoods, biodiversity, and ecosystem restoration, and may even cause harm in these areas depending on its implementation.
- The technology requires high energy consumption to extract CO2 from the atmosphere.
- It presents a moral hazard by potentially diminishing efforts to reduce emissions directly, with the assumption that emissions can simply be removed from the atmosphere.
- Concerns about permanence and leakage exist, as the stored carbon has the potential to be released back into the atmosphere.
What these critics fail to note is that carbon removal allows us to take responsibility for the carbon that has already polluted the atmosphere, and it provides some space as we develop viable renewable energy options. The reality is that carbon emissions persist for now. By creating tech that removes carbon from the atmosphere, we buy ourselves some time to develop renewable energy options.
How Your Business Can Help Capture Carbon
Climate goals rely upon all stakeholders—individuals, businesses, and governments—in order to succeed. While it can be argued that businesses and governments have the most impact, and therefore the most responsibility, individuals have their place in carbon removal, too. This can be seen through consumers’ demand for more sustainable business practices, including reducing the impact of ecommerce and choosing to support companies that are sincerely working toward sustainability targets, such as carbon emissions as well as pushing governments to invest in carbon removals.
EcoCart makes it simple to limit your company’s carbon footprint. While we do not support any carbon capture technologies because they are not cost-effective compared to reforestation and environmental conservation, we do offer carbon offsetting projects to mitigate your carbon emissions. Through carbon offsetting, which supports carbon removal projects, your customers can choose to offset the carbon footprint of their orders, contributing to global efforts. This allows them to enjoy the thrills of online shopping all while contributing to a greener world through a more sustainable cart.
If you’re looking for an easy way to offset emissions produced by your products, then request a demo today and learn how EcoCart can help.