By 2050, the world must remove ten gigatonnes of CO2—more than the current annual emissions of the US—to keep global temperature rise to well below 2° Celsius (C).
We have long relied on the land and oceans to absorb excess CO2 in the atmosphere, but they are now facing the limits in how much they can absorb. Already, the oceans are becoming very acidic from additional CO2, harming shellfish and hurting the marine ecosystem. We must now deploy shovel-ready carbon removal approaches to protect all living beings for generations to come.
Natural removal harnesses the power of plants and trees to remove CO2 from the air and store it in wood and soil. It does require land that might otherwise be used for conservation or for food. When trees die, are logged, or burn, the CO2 they store is released or reversed. Some of the logged trees can be used to make super-strong building materials, further displacing cement and steel. The CDR Program is supporting the effective advocacy and scaling up of the natural removal opportunities that are shovel ready and cost-effective now.
Technological removal mimics natural processes to take CO2 from the atmosphere. Direct air capture harnesses waste heat and renewable energy to run fans that capture CO2 into a filter, similar to how trees sequester carbon. From there, the CO2 can be stored deep underground, where it fuses to rock or be made into durable materials, including displacing the emission-intensive components of cement. Recycled CO2 can also be made into carbon-neutral fuels that power long-haul flights, which will be challenging to decarbonize. The CDR Program funds communications and policy advocacy to support the demonstration and scaling of technological removal opportunities and further drive down costs.
As we remove carbon from land using trees or carbon-sucking filters, the oceans may give back to the atmosphere some of the CO2 they have been storing. Improving our understanding and facilitating the development of oceans’ carbon removal mechanisms add an important tool in our climate action toolbox. The CDR Program aims to support the development of ocean CDR opportunities by supporting the research and community-building needed to bring to light the ocean’s potential role in CO2 removal. Learn more about our ocean CDR work here.