Do you Know the Difference Between Carbon Reduction & Carbon Removal?

Written by
Poppy Stringer
5
min read
July 6, 2022

The situation around climate change is complex, but we need to focus on trying to explain it simply, and look for simple solutions, whether they are natural or artificial, we can put them into two broad categories:-

  1. Carbon reduction
  2. Carbon removal

By removing and reducing carbon from the atmosphere we can mitigate the myriad of climate change effects. To avoid the worst effects we have to limit our global temperature rises to below 2oC above pre industrial levels. The problem with this, it’s a macro number, which unfortunately means a lot of people, think it’s too big to achieve and lean out, rather than lean in.

In order to have a solid chance at doing this we have to act now, it is vital that we use solutions to cut down on the emissions we produce and also to remove the ones that we have already emitted into our atmosphere.

Our actions are not yet irreversible which is why it is crucial businesses and individuals implement the climate solutions, and we believe look for lots of small changes to create a big impact.  

What is Carbon Removal?  

  1. Removal

As this solution's name suggests, it is about removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it elsewhere. This can be done both naturally and artificially, for example, forests are what's known as carbon sink, which means they can store CO2,  forests can absorb a net 7.6 billion metric tonnes of CO2 per year.

Tree Planting

This carbon sequestration is done via photosynthesis where the plants absorb the CO2 and store it in their leaves, trunks and roots, whilst also releasing oxygen. In order to enhance the carbon storing power of trees we can reforest areas which have been destroyed for cattle and other industrial activities or we can “afforest”, which means to plant trees in places where there weren't any before.

There are many organisations such as SKOOT that offer solutions, such as tree planting in order to help create cleaner and greener skies.

the Amazon Rainforest is an example of a carbon sink

Ocean Sinks

Another example of a large natural carbon sink are oceans, which are believed to currently absorb between 30 and 50% of all CO2 produced through the burning of fossil fuels. Other water systems too such as seagrass and algae are great at removing carbon, and humans can help preserve and restore these water ecosystems and organizations such as UNEP are already campaigning for changes.

Direct Air Carbon Capture

Direct air capture is a type of artificial removal solution, whilst the natural carbon sinks are removing a large percentage of our carbon emissions, there are not enough trees or water ecosystems to account for all of our emissions.

We also cannot restore destroyed forests and wetlands at a quick enough pace so we have to implement artificial methods. Direct air capture involves a technology that uses chemical reactions to directly pull the CO2 out of the air and either storing it or putting it to use.

For example, the CO2 can be drawn out of the atmosphere, captured and injected deep into the ground for sequestration in specific geological formations. The carbon can also be mixed with water and then pumped deep into the ground where it reacts with the rock and forms stone, it can then stay in this form for thousands of years. Alternatively, the carbon can be used in products such as concrete or plastic and can be stored in these materials for years. The CO2 pulled from the sky can even be used to make sky diamonds in labs, but this process releases a lot of carbon emissions and uses a lot of energy so is not yet the most effective way of storing carbon.

There are many removal solutions which can reduce the climate crisis.

  1. What is Carbon Reduction?

Reducing may seem less fancy than some of the new previously mentioned technology that is used for climate solutions, as it simply involves improving the way we already use resources but it is a priority.

Emission Reductions

The aim is to simply reduce emissions directly at the source and the largest amount of CO2 emissions comes from the burning of fossil fuels to generate energy. By editing the way we create the energy that is vital for our lives we can reduce our greenhouse gas impact massively.

Switching To Renewable Energy

One way to reduce our emissions via energy is to use renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources include, wind, solar and water, these sources of energy are infinite and produce significantly less CO2 than burning fossil fuels does. According to Climate Action  renewable energy could reduce CO2 emissions by over 70% by 2050.

wind turbines are a renewable energy source

Industry

Another huge source of CO2 emissions is industry, it accounts for 24% of GHG emissions. The emissions from industry come from primarily the burning of fossil fuels for energy combined with the GHG emissions that come from certain chemical reactions that are necessary to produce goods from raw materials. To solve this problem companies are using alternative materials, so they are reducing the amount of carbon heavy materials they use which subsequently reduces the amount that needs to be produced. Also creating materials that are easily recyclable and reusable, such as aluminium and glass can reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced annually as less product is being manufactured.

Transport

Transport is another significant carbon emitter accounting for approximately 25% of global carbon emissions. To reduce emissions from transport, you can choose more planet friendly travel options such as walking, cycling or public transport. To reduce your daily or even yearly transport carbon footprint you can offset your travel, at SKOOT you can offset flights, rail and even taxi travel.

planes release carbon into our skies

Food and Hospitality

Similarly, food is another major source of carbon emissions. Meat and dairy accounts for 14.5% of all global GHG emissions, as grazing animals require a lot of land which is often cleared through deforestation which accounts for 13% of emissions, and livestock also produces large quantities of methane. Cutting meat and dairy products from your diet or reducing the amount you consume would also greatly reduce your individual carbon footprint. Hospitality and food combined account for 20% of carbon emissions with an overnight stay in a hotel releasing 22kg of carbon and a 3 course meal for two releasing 16kg. By switching to more carbon friendly restaurants and hotels  you are doing your part in reducing the amount of CO2 released annually.

These are the two main solutions to climate change 1. Remove 2. Reduce, we have the tools to make a positive change and we should start using them sensibly.

Poppy Stringer

A Gen Z, who helps keep us all grounded with her passion for change now, not tomorrow. Someone who is just embarking on her career, who helps us create our interesting and thought provoking content, alongside helping with customer support. A true digital native.