In recent years, more and more information about climate change and greenhouse gases have been provided by the scientific community. While reducing CO2 emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels must remain a priority, there is also a strong drive to remove or “sequester” carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and trap it where it can’t damage the atmosphere. One suggested approach, known as Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) has proven controversial — it has promise, but also several possible flaws which must be overcome. Here are five other strategies for removing CO2 which seem like our best options for now:
1. Plant more trees
Plants convert CO2 into stored carbon naturally, through photosynthesis. More than one study has shown the tremendous potential of planting trees and doing a better job restoring and managing the forests we already have. Trees are a fairly inexpensive method of storing carbon and have other environmental benefits as well. It has been suggested that planting large numbers of trees may be enough to solve the carbon problem without other methods.
2. Cover crops
Farmland is often the competitor with forests for our use of the rural real estate, but it seems that farms can also be used to store more carbon in the soil. Managing the way we use agricultural lands more efficiently can not only improve their ability to mitigate climate change but also has the potential to improve crop yields. Suggested methods include increased composting and planting more cover crops on fields when they aren’t in use.
3. Expand coastal wetlands
Marshy land near oceans and rivers has long been known to be important for the environment, acting as a filter to purify water and a refuge for many animals. Scientists now report that expanding these wetlands are also potentially our cheapest option for pulling more carbon out of the air and into the soil. Like forests, we can not only create new wetlands but also act to preserve and restore the ones which already exist, to great benefit. We will have to take an effort to make sure these coastal areas aren’t the first ones destroyed by rising sea levels.
4. Pull it out of the air and water
Methods exist to pull CO2 directly out of the air and water and store it underground. (Carbon dioxide is naturally absorbed out of the air by seawater, so removing it from the sea will cause the sea to remove more from the atmosphere.) The only downside is that these technologies are new and still under development. They’re not as cheap as the options to plant more greenery, but as the science improves they may well prove to be powerful weapons in the fight against climate change.
Some minerals chemically interact with carbon dioxide in the air and naturally store carbon in a safe solid-state, in a process called weathering. Scientists are studying methods to stimulate this kind of carbon sequestering activity more effectively by exposing the right kinds of rocks and earth to the air or water. Some proposed ideas are crushing mine tailings to increase exposed surface area, adding enzymes to catalyze the chemical reactions, or pumping alkaline water up to the surface to allow mixing with the atmosphere. Like the direct capture methods, these technologies are newer and not as well understood for now, but have a lot of potentials.