Earth’s biosphere, unaided, cannot fix the climate problem that humans created and continue to disregard. Most climate stabilization scenarios require carbon dioxide removal (CDR): the world is waking up to the fact that reducing emissions is no longer sufficient and that we must simultaneously work to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. CDR is no longer a last resort, but an urgent necessity. This primer highlights CDR’s call to new generations of curious minds to resolve the climate crisis.
The authors presented us with the opportunity to read and provide our feedback on this primer at the end of our undergraduate careers. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of the theories and principles of climate change, we sought to apply ourselves to a worthy cause. We could easily choose careers with everyday operations with our degrees in chemical engineering. Instead, we chose to be a part of the solutions that will restore our planet.
In a world where so many powerful entities seek to maintain the status quo, we yearned to create change: to be a part of something that was bigger than both of us. Upon reading this primer for the first time, we were moved by its goal of offering a comprehensive guide to make CDR accessible to all. This primer opened us up to a world of possibilities, where creative young minds are allowed to run with big ideas that could save the planet. As newcomers to this space, we were inspired by the collective knowledge this primer shares: generations of experts blending many different areas of expertise into a symphony of carbon dioxide removal strategies we can use in the fight to stop climate change.
Today, the greatest existential crisis humans have ever faced is calling on the international community to rally together with vigor, innovation, and spirit in a way unseen since the space race. Ensuring a stable climate for future generations requires removing gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere – on the scale of the industrial revolution that released the CO2 in the first place. CDR is a massive industrial project that requires collaboration and cooperation from interdisciplinary teams. The coordination of these teams presents a great opportunity for the curious because all disciplines (biology, geology, chemistry, engineering, economics, political science, and many more) play vital roles in CDR.
Engineers will support and design technology to extract CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere. Geologists and geochemists will lead the charge in researching and identifying carbon sinks and to accept the abundance of carbon. Policymakers and investors must create avenues of funding and support to bolster the widespread deployment of CDR strategies. Biologists will preserve and ensure the health of our oceans, landscapes, and biosphere while exploring biologically-based CDR solutions. Social scientists will study and help society accomplish the changes needed for a sustainable future. This primer demonstrates that the breadth and depth of potential contributions to this field are limitless.
To address the climate crisis, dramatic emissions reduction must be deployed in concert with CDR. CDR encompasses myriad techniques and technologies: direct air capture, carbon storage and sequestration in natural basins, bioenergy with carbon capture, reforestation, carbon-friendly soil management practices, ocean enhancement, and many more. Each method has different rates of CO2 uptake, land requirements, energy demands, storage permanence, and cost.
This primer provides the context and background on CDR you need to begin applying yourself to the climate crisis. Written by dozens of authors, it offers a dialogue, rather than a rigid consensus, with open questions and insight into the needs of large-scale carbon dioxide removal.
The authors hope this primer is your first step in a rich journey to find your place in the fight against climate change.