Climate change increases pollen and worsens allergies

February 11, 2021 by  
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If you feel like you’re going through hankies faster than ever, you’re not just imagining it. Climate change is making allergy season even worse, according to a new study. Researchers concluded that pollen and planetary warming are closely tied in a study published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Allergy season is both beginning sooner and generating more pollen overall, thanks to a sneeze-inducing mixture of warmer air and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study’s authors found that pollen season in North America now starts about 20 days earlier than it did in 1990 and produces about 21% more pollen. Research predicts that this trend will accelerate. Related: Avoid allergies this spring with these 7 natural remedies The study used attribution science techniques to estimate the degree to which wildfires, rainfall during hurricanes, and other extreme weather events are worse than they’d be if the planet wasn’t getting toastier. “It’s a great piece of work,” Kristie Ebi of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington said of the study. “There has been very little research on the application of detection and attribution analysis to the health risks of a changing climate.” By examining data from 60 pollen-monitoring stations around the U.S., the researchers found the runniest noses and most watery eyes in Texas, the Southeast and the Midwest. Less pollen-driven mucous production was happening in the northern states. The greatest increase in pollen is coming from trees, not the more traditional culprits of grasses and weeds. While a runny nose is annoying enough, allergies can have serious effects on public health. Asthma and respiratory diseases are life-threatening and can increase the severity of respiratory viruses like COVID-19 . + PNAS Via The New York Times Image via Magda Pawluczuk

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Japan to develop wooden satellite in bid to curb space junk

December 31, 2020 by  
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Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry is collaborating with Kyoto University to develop the world’s first wooden satellite. The two entities have already started research to determine the possibility of using wood in space. This research will test tree growth and wood use in extreme environments on Earth. If these tests are successful, the project hopes to introduce the wood-inspired satellite by 2023. According to Sumitomo Forestry, wooden satellites provide an ideal solution for reducing space junk. Space experts have warned about increased space junk caused by satellites. The World Economic Forum estimates that about 6,000 satellites are circling Earth, of which 60% are defunct. Satellites often launch into space for different uses. Unfortunately, once the satellites serve their purpose, they remain in space. These satellites slowly disintegrate, leaving alumina particles or other metals in the upper atmosphere. These pieces may stay in the atmosphere for ages. Besides atmospheric pollution, the satellites themselves pose a potential risk should they fall to Earth. According to Kyoto University researchers, wood satellites can disintegrate in space without producing life-threatening junk. Once a satellite has served its purpose, it will slowly fall apart, thus avoiding the creation of additional space junk. Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University, says that if action is not taken about space junk now, it will eventually affect Earth’s environment. “We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Professor Doi said in an interview. Regarding the project’s next steps, he added “The next stage will be developing the engineering model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model.” Research firm Euroconsult predicts that if all factors remain constant, approximately 990 satellites will be launched into space each year throughout the next decade. This means that we could have about 15,000 satellites orbiting Earth by 2028. Today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has already launched more than 900 Starlink satellites into space, and the company plans to deploy thousands more. Without sustainability plans, these endeavors will likely contribute to the space junk problem. + BBC Image via Pixabay

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Indigenous land defender Flix Vsquez murdered in Honduras

December 31, 2020 by  
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Honduran environmental hero Félix Vásquez was murdered on December 26 for his brave work defending the land. Vásquez, 60, a long-time leader of the  indigenous  Lenca people, was shot at his home in front of his family. He lived in the rural community of Santiago de Puringla in western Honduras. Four assailants also beat his adult children who were present, but they survived. Vásquez had defended indigenous land rights since the 1980s. He was known nationally for his work opposing megaprojects such as environmentally destructive  mines , logging, wind farms and hydroelectric dams. He also worked on reclaiming ancestral titles for dispossessed communities. Related: Environmental activist Berta Cáceres found murdered in her home It takes a lot of courage to be an environmentalist in  Honduras . A 2009 military coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya and used harsh measures, including beatings and media blackouts, to set a new tone of controlling the people. For the last 11 years, the Honduran government has been better known for electoral fraud, corruption and drug trafficking connections than for eco-friendliness. Hundreds of environmental defenders have disappeared and/or been murdered, and others are locked up on contrived criminal charges. In 2020, the Honduran government stepped up persecution of land defenders. In July, armed assailants wearing police uniforms disappeared a group of Black indigenous environmental defenders. Eight  water  activists from the Guapinol community have been detained this year for protesting against an iron oxide mine. On December 29, just days after Vásquez’s murder, indigenous farmer  Adán Mejía  was murdered on his way home from tending his corn.  “Every single community leader is threatened, without exception, as part of the intimidation campaign to silence us and stop our resistance to projects to exploit natural resources imposed on our territory without consultation,” said Marlen Corea, a leader of indigenous and campesino environmental groups in La Paz. Corea worked closely with Vásquez. “That’s why Félix was killed, but our struggle is just.” Via The Guardian and NPR Image via Trocaire

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Indigenous land defender Flix Vsquez murdered in Honduras

A French wine cellars updated facade doubles as housing for local bats

December 31, 2020 by  
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Bordeaux-based design studio MOONWALKLOCAL collectif d’architectes has recently crafted a new facade for a French wine cellar that doubles as shelter for local bats. Although contemporary in design, the new construction pays homage to its rural surroundings with its simple, gabled shape. Eleven bat nesting boxes have been discreetly integrated into one of the building’s timber-clad, gabled end walls. Simply titled the Bat Wine Cellar, the multifunctional project combines a low-maintenance yet beautiful facade with ecological purpose. The inhabitable facade of the contemporary wine cellar features 11 bat nesting boxes that run the width of the gabled end wall and are constructed of timber to camouflage them into the wooden exterior. To ensure a dark and safe environment for the bats, the architects created a small opening at the bottom of each box as well as ridges on the interior for the bats to hang upside down. Related: Dutch town helps out rare bat species by installing “bat-friendly” streetlights “Useful in the vineyards to regulate insect and butterfly populations, the future inhabitants of this place will have all the necessary comfort: darkness, warmth and height to protect themselves from predators,” MOONWALKLOCAL collectif d’architectes explained in a project statement. In addition to eliminating unwanted pests from the vineyards, the bats can also serve important pollination roles. The dark timber cladding takes cues from the local agricultural vernacular, which includes wood-clad sheds as well as tobacco dryers finished with tar and used oil that dot the rural Bordeaux landscape. The architects used the traditional Japanese wood charring technique of shou sugi ban to treat the wood, which takes on a handsome appearance. Although the process can be time consuming, charring the wood offers benefits such as resistance against rot and pests. As a result, the preserved cladding requires little maintenance. The Bat Wine Cellar project was completed in 2016. + MOONWALKLOCAL collectif d’architectes Images via MOONWALKLOCAL

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A French wine cellars updated facade doubles as housing for local bats

Latest COVID-19 relief includes legislation on climate change

December 22, 2020 by  
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A $35 billion investment in clean power and other climate initiatives hitched a ride on the latest COVID-19 relief package. Backed by Senate Republicans as well as Democrats, the legislation will be the first significant climate change law in more than a decade — if it gets past President Trump’s desk this week. “This agreement protects both American consumers and American businesses,” said Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, as reported by The New York Times . “We can have clean air without damaging our economy.” Related: Biden promises US-led climate summit in 2021 One of the most important parts of this new legislation is a requirement for manufacturers to phase out coolants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While HFCs are a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, they have a disproportionate effect. HFCs have 1,000 times the ability to trap heat compared to carbon dioxide. In 2016, 197 nations agreed that HFCs had to go. They signed what’s called the Kigali agreement because it was signed in Kigali, Rwanda. Scientists say that if all nations complied with phasing out HFCs, it could prevent an atmospheric temperature increase of almost 1°F. An atmospheric temperature increase of 3.6°F would be catastrophic, so ending HFCs could be of great help in avoiding this. Trump never ratified the Kigali agreement, instead opposing efforts to curb HFCs. This new legislation requires companies to decrease HFC production and consumption to about 15% of the 2012 levels by 2036. The EPA will oversee this phase-out. U.S. chemical companies strongly support phasing out HFCs, and most have already turned to climate-friendlier alternatives. If nobody could use HFCs, those who have already made the responsible choice will be at a more financially competitive advantage. Stephen Yurek was in Kigali in 2016, and, as chief executive of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, has been lobbying lawmakers since. “U.S. companies are already the leaders with the technology that has been developed to replace the less environmentally friendly refrigerants,” he said. “This bill is a victory for the manufacturers of all these products — not just the refrigerants; the equipment and component manufacturers.” Now the legislation’s proponents are crossing their fingers that Trump won’t stall it. Yurek said he didn’t even want to use the word “climate” when discussing the bill. “We didn’t want to give him any excuse to not sign it.” Via The New York Times Image via Tim Hüfner

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Latest COVID-19 relief includes legislation on climate change

Greenhouse gases hit record levels despite COVID-19 lockdowns

November 30, 2020 by  
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A recent report released by the  World Metrological Organization  (WMO) has revealed that greenhouse gasses have increased to record highs in the atmosphere despite the lockdowns caused by the pandemic. Contrary to the expectations of many, the amount of greenhouse gases has been on the rise in 2020. The slowdown in economic activities and travel across the world is estimated to have caused a 4.2% to 7.5% reduction in the overall emissions in 2020. According to the WMO, this minor reduction due to the pandemic was nothing compared to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Worse yet, the report indicates that growth is higher than the average rate in the past 10 years. Related: Will gene editing and cloning create super cows that resist global warming? “The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general for the WMO. The reviewed data revealed that the benchmark station of Mauna Loa in Hawaii experienced a higher rate of carbon emissions in 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. The station recorded 411.3 ppm in 2020 and 408.5 ppm in September 2019. The same scenario was observed in Tasmania, Australia, where carbon dioxide levels rose to 410.8ppm in September 2020 from 408.6ppm in September 2019. The WMO secretary-general said that these figures are worrying if we look at the fast rate of growth each year. “We breached the global [annual] threshold of 400ppm in 2015 and, just four years later, we have crossed 410ppm,” Taalas said. “Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records.” Those behind the report are now calling for stringent actions to be taken if the world is to meet the crucial target of cutting emissions in half by 2030. Otherwise, global warming will lead to increased poverty, malnutrition and deaths from droughts, floods, heatwaves and fires. “The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible and would affect our everyday life only marginally,” Taalas said. “It is to be welcomed that a growing number of countries and companies have committed themselves to carbon neutrality . There is no time to lose.” + WMO Via The Guardian Image via Thomas Millot

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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential

November 11, 2020 by  
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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential Katie Lebling Wed, 11/11/2020 – 00:30 To meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius 2.7 degrees F), greenhouse gas emissions must reach net-zero by mid-century. Achieving this not only will require reducing existing emissions, but also removing carbon dioxide already in the air. How much carbon to remove from the atmosphere will depend on emissions in the coming years, but estimates point to around 10 billion-20 billion tons of CO 2 per year through 2100, globally. This is a tremendous amount, considering that the United States emitted 5.4 billion tons of CO 2 in 2018. As the need for climate action becomes more urgent, the ocean is gaining attention as a potential part of the solution . Approaches such as investing in offshore energy production, conserving coastal ecosystems and increasing consumption of sustainable ocean-based protein offer opportunities to reduce emissions. In addition to these opportunities, a range of ocean-based carbon removal approaches could help capture and store billions of tons of carbon. Importantly, these approaches would not increase ocean acidification. The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO 2 emissions, which is contributing to a rise in ocean acidification and making it more difficult for organisms such as oysters and corals to build shells. The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, contributing to a rise in ocean acidification. A few options for increasing the ocean’s capacity to store carbon also may provide co-benefits, such as increasing biodiversity and reducing acidification. However, many approaches remain contentious due to uncertainties around potential ecological impacts, governance and other risks. If research efforts increase to improve understanding in these areas, a combination of approaches could help address the global climate crisis. Ocean-based ways to remove CO 2 from the atmosphere Proposed methods for increasing the ocean’s ability to remove and store carbon dioxide — including biological, chemical and electrochemical concepts — vary in technical maturity, permanence, public acceptance and risk. Note: This graphic represents the general types of proposed approaches, but may not reflect every proposal. 1. Biological approaches Biological approaches, which leverage the power of photosynthesis to capture CO 2 , offer a few approaches for carbon removal. Ecosystem restoration Restoring coastal blue carbon ecosystems , including salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses, can increase the amount of carbon stored in coastal sediments. Globally, the carbon removal potential of coastal blue carbon ecosystem restoration is around a few hundred million tons of CO 2 per year by 2050, which is relatively small compared to the need. However, ample co-benefits — such as reducing coastal erosion and flooding, improving water quality and supporting livelihoods and tourism — make it worth pursuing. Restoring coastal blue carbon ecosystems, including salt marshes such as this one, can help store carbon in addition to other restoration benefits. Photo by Bre Smith/Unsplash Large-scale seaweed cultivation Another proposed approach is large-scale seaweed cultivation , as seaweed captures carbon through photosynthesis. While there is evidence that wild seaweed already contributes to carbon removal, there is potential to cultivate and harvest seaweed for use in a range of products, including food (human and animal), fuel and fertilizer. The full extent of carbon removal potential from these applications is uncertain, as many of these products would return carbon within the seaweed to the environment during consumption. Yet, these applications could lower emission intensity compared to conventional production processes. Seaweed cultivation also can provide an economic return that could support near-term industry growth. One interesting application is adding certain seaweeds to feed for ruminant farm animals, which significantly could reduce their methane emissions. Methane has especially high climate warming potential, and methane emissions from ruminants contribute roughly 120 MtCO1e per year in the United States. Emerging research shows that certain types of red seaweeds can reduce ruminant emissions by more than 50 percent, although more research is necessary to show consistent long-term reductions and understand whether large-scale cultivation efforts are successful. In addition to reducing emissions, seaweed cultivation also may reduce ocean acidification. In some places, this application is already in use for shellfish aquaculture to reduce acidification and improve shellfish growth. Understanding potential ecosystem risks is critical to implementing this approach at scale. Potential risks include changes to water movement patterns; changes to light, nutrient and oxygen availability; altered pH levels; impacts from manmade structures for growing; and impacts of monoculture cultivation, which can affect existing marine flora and fauna. Continued small-scale pilot testing is necessary to understand these ecosystem impacts and bring down costs for cultivation, harvesting and transport. Iron fertilization A more controversial and divisive idea is iron fertilization , which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. The phytoplankton would take in atmospheric CO 2 as they grow, with a portion expected to eventually sink to the ocean floor, resulting in permanent storage of that carbon in ocean sediments About a dozen experiments indicate varying levels of carbon sequestration efficacy, but the approach remains compelling to some due to its low cost. Although iron fertilization theoretically could store large amounts of carbon for a comparatively low cost, it also could cause significant negative ecological impacts, such as toxic algal blooms that can reduce oxygen levels, block sunlight and harm sea life. Additionally, researchers are hesitant to pursue this method due to a fraught history, including one experiment that potentially violated international law. Iron fertilization, which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. Because of the relatively low cost, there is also the risk of a single actor’s conducting large-scale fertilization and potentially causing large-scale ecological damage. Given that this method remains contentious, a critical first step is creating a clear international governance structure to continue research. Iron fertilization continues to face scientific uncertainties about its efficacy and ecosystem impacts that, if pursued, would require at-sea testing to resolve. 2. Chemical approaches Chemical approaches, namely alkalinity enhancement, involve adding different types of minerals to the ocean to react with dissolved carbon dioxide and turn it into dissolved bicarbonates. As dissolved carbon dioxide converts into dissolved bicarbonates, the concentration of dissolved CO 2 lowers relative to the air, allowing the ocean to absorb more CO 2 from the air at the ocean-air boundary. Although mineral sources are abundant, accessing them would require significant energy to extract, grind down and transport. While alkalinity enhancement is in use at small scales to improve water quality for calcifying creatures such as oysters and other shellfish, large scale applications would require pilot testing to understand ecosystem impacts. Additional research also will help map accessible and suitable sources of alkalinity and determine how to most effectively apply it. 3. Electrochemical approaches A handful of electrochemical concepts also store carbon as dissolved bicarbonate. Unlike chemical approaches, electrochemical approaches do so by running electric currents through seawater. Variations of electrochemical approaches also could produce valuable hydrogen or concentrated CO 2 for industrial use or storage. Scaling up this approach would depend on the availability of low-carbon energy sources in suitable locations. Additional research will help map such sources and analyze potential benefits, such as hydrogen production. Governance and social considerations of ocean-based carbon removal Ensuring appropriate governance frameworks — both national and international — for ocean-based carbon removal approaches will be a critical pre-condition before many are ready to scale. International legal frameworks for the ocean, such as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and the London Convention and Protocol, predate the concept of ocean carbon dioxide removal. As a result, these frameworks are retroactively applied to these approaches, leading to differing interpretations and a lack of clarity in some cases. Some legal scholars suggest amending existing legal instruments to more directly govern ocean carbon removal, including carbon removal in ongoing negotiations for new international agreements or shifting governance to another international body entirely. Robust environmental safeguards, including transparent monitoring and reporting, also must be in place. Lastly, ocean carbon removal approaches should not move forward without first considering the impacts on local communities and indigenous populations. Community acceptance of potential pilot testing and impacts on coastal communities also must be a pre-condition to moving forward at scale. Climate action must include the ocean As the world seeks effective tools for the climate action toolbox, employing approaches on land and at sea would prevent over-reliance on any one approach and spread the carbon removal burden over larger systems. However, before any large-scale application, ocean-based carbon removal approaches require continued research to better understand their effectiveness, cost, capacity and ancillary impacts. Such research will ensure a strong scientific foundation from which to pursue these concepts, while minimizing unintended impacts on ocean ecosystems. If understood and effectively developed and implemented, ocean-based carbon removal approaches could prove valuable to reaching net-zero and avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Pull Quote The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, contributing to a rise in ocean acidification. Iron fertilization, which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. Contributors Eliza Northrop Topics Oceans & Fisheries Carbon Removal World Resources Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz collage via Unsplash Close Authorship

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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential

Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential

November 11, 2020 by  
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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential Katie Lebling Wed, 11/11/2020 – 00:30 To meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius 2.7 degrees F), greenhouse gas emissions must reach net-zero by mid-century. Achieving this not only will require reducing existing emissions, but also removing carbon dioxide already in the air. How much carbon to remove from the atmosphere will depend on emissions in the coming years, but estimates point to around 10 billion-20 billion tons of CO 2 per year through 2100, globally. This is a tremendous amount, considering that the United States emitted 5.4 billion tons of CO 2 in 2018. As the need for climate action becomes more urgent, the ocean is gaining attention as a potential part of the solution . Approaches such as investing in offshore energy production, conserving coastal ecosystems and increasing consumption of sustainable ocean-based protein offer opportunities to reduce emissions. In addition to these opportunities, a range of ocean-based carbon removal approaches could help capture and store billions of tons of carbon. Importantly, these approaches would not increase ocean acidification. The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO 2 emissions, which is contributing to a rise in ocean acidification and making it more difficult for organisms such as oysters and corals to build shells. The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, contributing to a rise in ocean acidification. A few options for increasing the ocean’s capacity to store carbon also may provide co-benefits, such as increasing biodiversity and reducing acidification. However, many approaches remain contentious due to uncertainties around potential ecological impacts, governance and other risks. If research efforts increase to improve understanding in these areas, a combination of approaches could help address the global climate crisis. Ocean-based ways to remove CO 2 from the atmosphere Proposed methods for increasing the ocean’s ability to remove and store carbon dioxide — including biological, chemical and electrochemical concepts — vary in technical maturity, permanence, public acceptance and risk. Note: This graphic represents the general types of proposed approaches, but may not reflect every proposal. 1. Biological approaches Biological approaches, which leverage the power of photosynthesis to capture CO 2 , offer a few approaches for carbon removal. Ecosystem restoration Restoring coastal blue carbon ecosystems , including salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses, can increase the amount of carbon stored in coastal sediments. Globally, the carbon removal potential of coastal blue carbon ecosystem restoration is around a few hundred million tons of CO 2 per year by 2050, which is relatively small compared to the need. However, ample co-benefits — such as reducing coastal erosion and flooding, improving water quality and supporting livelihoods and tourism — make it worth pursuing. Restoring coastal blue carbon ecosystems, including salt marshes such as this one, can help store carbon in addition to other restoration benefits. Photo by Bre Smith/Unsplash Large-scale seaweed cultivation Another proposed approach is large-scale seaweed cultivation , as seaweed captures carbon through photosynthesis. While there is evidence that wild seaweed already contributes to carbon removal, there is potential to cultivate and harvest seaweed for use in a range of products, including food (human and animal), fuel and fertilizer. The full extent of carbon removal potential from these applications is uncertain, as many of these products would return carbon within the seaweed to the environment during consumption. Yet, these applications could lower emission intensity compared to conventional production processes. Seaweed cultivation also can provide an economic return that could support near-term industry growth. One interesting application is adding certain seaweeds to feed for ruminant farm animals, which significantly could reduce their methane emissions. Methane has especially high climate warming potential, and methane emissions from ruminants contribute roughly 120 MtCO1e per year in the United States. Emerging research shows that certain types of red seaweeds can reduce ruminant emissions by more than 50 percent, although more research is necessary to show consistent long-term reductions and understand whether large-scale cultivation efforts are successful. In addition to reducing emissions, seaweed cultivation also may reduce ocean acidification. In some places, this application is already in use for shellfish aquaculture to reduce acidification and improve shellfish growth. Understanding potential ecosystem risks is critical to implementing this approach at scale. Potential risks include changes to water movement patterns; changes to light, nutrient and oxygen availability; altered pH levels; impacts from manmade structures for growing; and impacts of monoculture cultivation, which can affect existing marine flora and fauna. Continued small-scale pilot testing is necessary to understand these ecosystem impacts and bring down costs for cultivation, harvesting and transport. Iron fertilization A more controversial and divisive idea is iron fertilization , which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. The phytoplankton would take in atmospheric CO 2 as they grow, with a portion expected to eventually sink to the ocean floor, resulting in permanent storage of that carbon in ocean sediments About a dozen experiments indicate varying levels of carbon sequestration efficacy, but the approach remains compelling to some due to its low cost. Although iron fertilization theoretically could store large amounts of carbon for a comparatively low cost, it also could cause significant negative ecological impacts, such as toxic algal blooms that can reduce oxygen levels, block sunlight and harm sea life. Additionally, researchers are hesitant to pursue this method due to a fraught history, including one experiment that potentially violated international law. Iron fertilization, which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. Because of the relatively low cost, there is also the risk of a single actor’s conducting large-scale fertilization and potentially causing large-scale ecological damage. Given that this method remains contentious, a critical first step is creating a clear international governance structure to continue research. Iron fertilization continues to face scientific uncertainties about its efficacy and ecosystem impacts that, if pursued, would require at-sea testing to resolve. 2. Chemical approaches Chemical approaches, namely alkalinity enhancement, involve adding different types of minerals to the ocean to react with dissolved carbon dioxide and turn it into dissolved bicarbonates. As dissolved carbon dioxide converts into dissolved bicarbonates, the concentration of dissolved CO 2 lowers relative to the air, allowing the ocean to absorb more CO 2 from the air at the ocean-air boundary. Although mineral sources are abundant, accessing them would require significant energy to extract, grind down and transport. While alkalinity enhancement is in use at small scales to improve water quality for calcifying creatures such as oysters and other shellfish, large scale applications would require pilot testing to understand ecosystem impacts. Additional research also will help map accessible and suitable sources of alkalinity and determine how to most effectively apply it. 3. Electrochemical approaches A handful of electrochemical concepts also store carbon as dissolved bicarbonate. Unlike chemical approaches, electrochemical approaches do so by running electric currents through seawater. Variations of electrochemical approaches also could produce valuable hydrogen or concentrated CO 2 for industrial use or storage. Scaling up this approach would depend on the availability of low-carbon energy sources in suitable locations. Additional research will help map such sources and analyze potential benefits, such as hydrogen production. Governance and social considerations of ocean-based carbon removal Ensuring appropriate governance frameworks — both national and international — for ocean-based carbon removal approaches will be a critical pre-condition before many are ready to scale. International legal frameworks for the ocean, such as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and the London Convention and Protocol, predate the concept of ocean carbon dioxide removal. As a result, these frameworks are retroactively applied to these approaches, leading to differing interpretations and a lack of clarity in some cases. Some legal scholars suggest amending existing legal instruments to more directly govern ocean carbon removal, including carbon removal in ongoing negotiations for new international agreements or shifting governance to another international body entirely. Robust environmental safeguards, including transparent monitoring and reporting, also must be in place. Lastly, ocean carbon removal approaches should not move forward without first considering the impacts on local communities and indigenous populations. Community acceptance of potential pilot testing and impacts on coastal communities also must be a pre-condition to moving forward at scale. Climate action must include the ocean As the world seeks effective tools for the climate action toolbox, employing approaches on land and at sea would prevent over-reliance on any one approach and spread the carbon removal burden over larger systems. However, before any large-scale application, ocean-based carbon removal approaches require continued research to better understand their effectiveness, cost, capacity and ancillary impacts. Such research will ensure a strong scientific foundation from which to pursue these concepts, while minimizing unintended impacts on ocean ecosystems. If understood and effectively developed and implemented, ocean-based carbon removal approaches could prove valuable to reaching net-zero and avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Pull Quote The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, contributing to a rise in ocean acidification. Iron fertilization, which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. Contributors Eliza Northrop Topics Oceans & Fisheries Carbon Removal World Resources Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz collage via Unsplash Close Authorship

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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential

Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

November 10, 2020 by  
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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2 Tali Zuckerman Tue, 11/10/2020 – 01:00 Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be as difficult as getting to the moon.  That’s because every day, human activity pumps out 38 tons of CO2 into the air. Currently, our atmosphere is saturated with around 415 parts per million (ppm) CO2, a number we urgently need to reduce to 280 ppm to avoid the most devastating climate impacts.  But to take out just one ton of CO2, we must first filter one Roman colosseum’s worth of air. Several pioneers in the field are developing revolutionary systems to do just that. During the “Carbon Removal Moonshots” session in late October at VERGE 20, co-founders from innovative carbon removal initiatives Project Vesta, Charm Industrial and IdeaLab joined moderator Tito Jankowski, co-founder of the online community Air Miners, on the virtual stage to share the stories and missions behind their innovations. 1. Project Vesta: Enhancing natural weathering to capture CO2 in ocean-bound volcanic sand Launched on Earth Day 2019, Project Vesta aims to enhance natural weathering processes to accelerate carbon capture and storage in the world’s oceans. The nonprofit organization plans to do this by accelerating Earth’s carbonate-silicate cycle, in which volcanic rock is weathered by rain and creates a chemical reaction that sequesters CO2 from the air. Over time, this carbon turns into limestone on the ocean floor and melts back into the Earth’s core.  During the session, co-founder Kelly Erhart explained the natural inspiration for the project: “This [process] has been working for millions of years and slowly locking up trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth over geologic time scales. We looked at this and we asked: How can we speed this up?” Specifically, Project Vesta has developed a way to take olivine, a naturally abundant, green volcanic rock, and grind it into sand to be distributed over beaches around the world. After the olivine sand is set in place, ocean waves, tides and currents will be left to do the rest.  If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Erhart believes that the process is not only feasible, but scalable. Olivine is found on every continent, and makes up over 50 percent of Earth’s upper mantle. The solution does not compete for land use or other economic activities, and only requires that 2 percent of global shelf seas are covered with a few millimeters of olivine sand to sequester one year’s worth of human CO2 emissions, Erhart said. Of the three innovations presented, Project Vesta comes in at the lowest estimated price point. The organization aims to reach $10 per ton of CO2 equivalent, which is five to 10 times cheaper than direct air capture (DAC) or other techniques. So far, Project Vesta has raised $2.5 million in philanthropic and corporate donations (including a large purchase from Stripe) and is deploying its technology on a few heavily instrumented pilot beaches to monitor the rate of weathering and any effects on ocean life. The team believes that any impact will be beneficial, as olivine deacidifies the ocean and therefore helps support the life and health of marine ecosystems. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to advance this technology all over the world. It hopes to establish an open-source integrated algorithm and protocol that will enable governments, nonprofits and companies to deploy this solution with predictable results. The Charm Industrial team. 2. Charm Industrial: Turning biomass waste into CO2-dense bio-oil Charm Industrial is working to reverse the process of crude-oil production — that is, to take the carbon stored in biomass, turn it into CO2-dense biofuel through fast pyrolysis (superheating) and inject it back into the Earth’s crust. The startup is on a mission to “return the atmosphere to 280 ppm” through its technology, which it claims is more permanent and cost-effective than traditional nature-based offsets and direct air capture (DAC) methods.  Currently, Charm makes its bio-oil from excess sawdust and wood, but it plans to use agricultural residues such as corn stover, rice straw, sugar cane and almond shells in the future. Its aim is for the process to have additionality, meaning that if the feedstock was left unused, such residues would be left in fields to rot and emit CO2 back into the air.  The bio-oil Charm produces has properties similar to crude oil but with half the energy content and a very high carbon content. This, along with its tendency to form a solid over time, make the product safe for injection into existing oil wells, according to the company. Further, the oil is less likely to leak back into the atmosphere or groundwater than CO2 gas (or CO2 dissolved in water) when injected into the same wells, according to Charm, and the oil also can better help prevent seismic activity in large underground caverns created by past mining activities.  “What’s interesting about sequestration of bio-oil is that it sort of closes the carbon cycle that started about 200 years ago with the initial removal of oil from these formations,” said Charm co-founder Shaun Meehan. “There’s enormous infrastructure that exists to get oil out of the earth, and we just need to run it backwards.” Charm says its model is unique because it plans to use small-scale facilities. Meehan explained that previously, large biomass facilities have been unsuccessful because they quickly depleted nearby biomass stores and caused prices to skyrocket. By opening multiple smaller plants, Charm hopes to have a more stable quantity of biomass to work with. What does it cost for this form of sequestration? Charm’s current projections are around $475 per ton of CO2 equivalent for the first few years — a number it hopes to get down to $200 by its 10th plant and eventually to $50 per ton of CO2 equivalent.  Like Project Vesta, Charm believes its solution is scalable. The company already has received regulatory approval for its first injection site in Kansas. “As far as scale, there is about 140 gigatons per year of global biomass availability,” Meehan said. “If we are even able to take a small subset of that biomass, then we are able to have a meaningful impact on negative emissions.” Bill Gross, founder of Heliogen, said every acre of land served by the technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Courtesy of Heliogen 3. Heliogen (IdeaLab): Capturing carbon with solar-powered, desert-based DAC plants Bill Gross , founder and chairman of the IdeaLab technology incubator and company Heliogen, began his presentation with several eye-opening statistics and visuals about humanity’s emissions. These included the fact that humans emit 31 times (by weight) the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as they do garbage into their trash cans, and that to remove 1 ton of carbon from the atmosphere requires capturing a volume of air equivalent to the Colosseum in Rome.  Gross then described the solar-powered DAC process his team at Heliogen has designed. The process involves first funneling air through a desiccant (a hygroscopic substance that absorbs water), then moving it through zeolite, a mineral that effectively takes up any CO2 in the air, Gross said. Water is then removed from the desiccant and CO2 from the zeolite using solar-powered thermal energy. Ideally, this technology would be situated in desert environments so as not to compete for land and harness the brilliant power of the sun. According to Gross, every acre of land of this technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Multiplied over 390 acres (a rectangle that fits well within the Sahara desert) this technology theoretically could neutralize all 38 gigatons of CO2 humans produce every year. Of course, this is a big ask. Actually achieving it would require that the technology be cheap enough to set up and account for any emissions created during its installation. At the moment, the estimated price of this technology is $100 per ton of CO2, according to Gross. He hopes to reach $50 per ton and dreams of getting to $25. When asked about plans for the use of CO2 after it is captured and compressed, Gross reckoned that he focuses solely on the removal of CO2, several startups will emerge to find creative uses for the gas once it can be captured at a low price. Like the previous two technologies, Gross stressed that the success of this solution relies on the global shift towards valuing CO2 emissions.  Although private players are increasingly taking responsibility for their emissions (tech companies such as Shopify, Square and Microsoft were mentioned) the public sector must move to put a price on carbon to drive change on a larger scale. Once global regulations mandate that corporations pay for their emissions, companies will look towards such innovations for cheaper ways to offset their emissions, he said. To the moon and beyond  Ultimately, a real solution to the global CO2 crisis necessitates collaboration between sectors and individual innovators, something Jankowksi’s online community Air Miners is working to facilitate. As each speaker stressed, no one solution is big enough to bring us back to 280ppm — we need several of them to go to work at once.  As Gross put it, “We need the same diversity of ideas to take [CO2] out as the people who put it up there.” The time to act is now, the speakers urged: Spread the message, get people excited and, as Jankowski said, believe that even this trip to the moon can succeed.  “If we want to create a world that we know is possible,” Erhart echoed, “we have to be able to imagine it.” Pull Quote If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Topics Carbon Removal VERGE 20 Innovation Carbon Capture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Olivine, the focus of Project Vesta’s carbon removal approach. 

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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2

November 10, 2020 by  
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Shooting for the moon: 3 radical innovations to remove atmospheric CO2 Tali Zuckerman Tue, 11/10/2020 – 01:00 Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may be as difficult as getting to the moon.  That’s because every day, human activity pumps out 38 tons of CO2 into the air. Currently, our atmosphere is saturated with around 415 parts per million (ppm) CO2, a number we urgently need to reduce to 280 ppm to avoid the most devastating climate impacts.  But to take out just one ton of CO2, we must first filter one Roman colosseum’s worth of air. Several pioneers in the field are developing revolutionary systems to do just that. During the “Carbon Removal Moonshots” session in late October at VERGE 20, co-founders from innovative carbon removal initiatives Project Vesta, Charm Industrial and IdeaLab joined moderator Tito Jankowski, co-founder of the online community Air Miners, on the virtual stage to share the stories and missions behind their innovations. 1. Project Vesta: Enhancing natural weathering to capture CO2 in ocean-bound volcanic sand Launched on Earth Day 2019, Project Vesta aims to enhance natural weathering processes to accelerate carbon capture and storage in the world’s oceans. The nonprofit organization plans to do this by accelerating Earth’s carbonate-silicate cycle, in which volcanic rock is weathered by rain and creates a chemical reaction that sequesters CO2 from the air. Over time, this carbon turns into limestone on the ocean floor and melts back into the Earth’s core.  During the session, co-founder Kelly Erhart explained the natural inspiration for the project: “This [process] has been working for millions of years and slowly locking up trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth over geologic time scales. We looked at this and we asked: How can we speed this up?” Specifically, Project Vesta has developed a way to take olivine, a naturally abundant, green volcanic rock, and grind it into sand to be distributed over beaches around the world. After the olivine sand is set in place, ocean waves, tides and currents will be left to do the rest.  If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Erhart believes that the process is not only feasible, but scalable. Olivine is found on every continent, and makes up over 50 percent of Earth’s upper mantle. The solution does not compete for land use or other economic activities, and only requires that 2 percent of global shelf seas are covered with a few millimeters of olivine sand to sequester one year’s worth of human CO2 emissions, Erhart said. Of the three innovations presented, Project Vesta comes in at the lowest estimated price point. The organization aims to reach $10 per ton of CO2 equivalent, which is five to 10 times cheaper than direct air capture (DAC) or other techniques. So far, Project Vesta has raised $2.5 million in philanthropic and corporate donations (including a large purchase from Stripe) and is deploying its technology on a few heavily instrumented pilot beaches to monitor the rate of weathering and any effects on ocean life. The team believes that any impact will be beneficial, as olivine deacidifies the ocean and therefore helps support the life and health of marine ecosystems. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to advance this technology all over the world. It hopes to establish an open-source integrated algorithm and protocol that will enable governments, nonprofits and companies to deploy this solution with predictable results. The Charm Industrial team. 2. Charm Industrial: Turning biomass waste into CO2-dense bio-oil Charm Industrial is working to reverse the process of crude-oil production — that is, to take the carbon stored in biomass, turn it into CO2-dense biofuel through fast pyrolysis (superheating) and inject it back into the Earth’s crust. The startup is on a mission to “return the atmosphere to 280 ppm” through its technology, which it claims is more permanent and cost-effective than traditional nature-based offsets and direct air capture (DAC) methods.  Currently, Charm makes its bio-oil from excess sawdust and wood, but it plans to use agricultural residues such as corn stover, rice straw, sugar cane and almond shells in the future. Its aim is for the process to have additionality, meaning that if the feedstock was left unused, such residues would be left in fields to rot and emit CO2 back into the air.  The bio-oil Charm produces has properties similar to crude oil but with half the energy content and a very high carbon content. This, along with its tendency to form a solid over time, make the product safe for injection into existing oil wells, according to the company. Further, the oil is less likely to leak back into the atmosphere or groundwater than CO2 gas (or CO2 dissolved in water) when injected into the same wells, according to Charm, and the oil also can better help prevent seismic activity in large underground caverns created by past mining activities.  “What’s interesting about sequestration of bio-oil is that it sort of closes the carbon cycle that started about 200 years ago with the initial removal of oil from these formations,” said Charm co-founder Shaun Meehan. “There’s enormous infrastructure that exists to get oil out of the earth, and we just need to run it backwards.” Charm says its model is unique because it plans to use small-scale facilities. Meehan explained that previously, large biomass facilities have been unsuccessful because they quickly depleted nearby biomass stores and caused prices to skyrocket. By opening multiple smaller plants, Charm hopes to have a more stable quantity of biomass to work with. What does it cost for this form of sequestration? Charm’s current projections are around $475 per ton of CO2 equivalent for the first few years — a number it hopes to get down to $200 by its 10th plant and eventually to $50 per ton of CO2 equivalent.  Like Project Vesta, Charm believes its solution is scalable. The company already has received regulatory approval for its first injection site in Kansas. “As far as scale, there is about 140 gigatons per year of global biomass availability,” Meehan said. “If we are even able to take a small subset of that biomass, then we are able to have a meaningful impact on negative emissions.” Bill Gross, founder of Heliogen, said every acre of land served by the technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Courtesy of Heliogen 3. Heliogen (IdeaLab): Capturing carbon with solar-powered, desert-based DAC plants Bill Gross , founder and chairman of the IdeaLab technology incubator and company Heliogen, began his presentation with several eye-opening statistics and visuals about humanity’s emissions. These included the fact that humans emit 31 times (by weight) the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as they do garbage into their trash cans, and that to remove 1 ton of carbon from the atmosphere requires capturing a volume of air equivalent to the Colosseum in Rome.  Gross then described the solar-powered DAC process his team at Heliogen has designed. The process involves first funneling air through a desiccant (a hygroscopic substance that absorbs water), then moving it through zeolite, a mineral that effectively takes up any CO2 in the air, Gross said. Water is then removed from the desiccant and CO2 from the zeolite using solar-powered thermal energy. Ideally, this technology would be situated in desert environments so as not to compete for land and harness the brilliant power of the sun. According to Gross, every acre of land of this technology would remove 1 ton of CO2 per day, a rate of capture equivalent to that in roughly 100 acres of forest. Multiplied over 390 acres (a rectangle that fits well within the Sahara desert) this technology theoretically could neutralize all 38 gigatons of CO2 humans produce every year. Of course, this is a big ask. Actually achieving it would require that the technology be cheap enough to set up and account for any emissions created during its installation. At the moment, the estimated price of this technology is $100 per ton of CO2, according to Gross. He hopes to reach $50 per ton and dreams of getting to $25. When asked about plans for the use of CO2 after it is captured and compressed, Gross reckoned that he focuses solely on the removal of CO2, several startups will emerge to find creative uses for the gas once it can be captured at a low price. Like the previous two technologies, Gross stressed that the success of this solution relies on the global shift towards valuing CO2 emissions.  Although private players are increasingly taking responsibility for their emissions (tech companies such as Shopify, Square and Microsoft were mentioned) the public sector must move to put a price on carbon to drive change on a larger scale. Once global regulations mandate that corporations pay for their emissions, companies will look towards such innovations for cheaper ways to offset their emissions, he said. To the moon and beyond  Ultimately, a real solution to the global CO2 crisis necessitates collaboration between sectors and individual innovators, something Jankowksi’s online community Air Miners is working to facilitate. As each speaker stressed, no one solution is big enough to bring us back to 280ppm — we need several of them to go to work at once.  As Gross put it, “We need the same diversity of ideas to take [CO2] out as the people who put it up there.” The time to act is now, the speakers urged: Spread the message, get people excited and, as Jankowski said, believe that even this trip to the moon can succeed.  “If we want to create a world that we know is possible,” Erhart echoed, “we have to be able to imagine it.” Pull Quote If we want to create a world that we know is possible, we have to be able to imagine it. Topics Carbon Removal VERGE 20 Innovation Carbon Capture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Olivine, the focus of Project Vesta’s carbon removal approach. 

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