The climate crisis is already a catastrophe: millions would suffer and die for centuries to come even if we stopped emitting today. Thus reaching net zero is simply not enough. We have to go further and restore the climate.
Our vision for restoration is threefold. First, we need to MITIGATE our emission in order to reach net zero as soon as possible, stopping making the climate crisis any worse than it already is. This involves switching to renewable energy, changing our food production and transport systems, as well as so much more.
Second, we need to REMOVE CO2. We can do so using a variety of technologies and techniques, such as rewilding, enhanced natural weathering processes and by chemical means. We can then start to reverse the climate crisis, and make the world a better and safer place to live for everyone.
Finally, we need to ADAPT to the current impacts of the climate crisis. This involves building infrastructure like flood defences, coming up with global systems to deal with increased climate refugees, the development of better farming practices to deal with a changing climate, and the incorporation of economic policies to protect those who would be negatively impacted by mitigation.
MITIGATE. rEMOVE. adapt.
Why do we need it?
Traditionally, climate movements have focussed on advocating for net zero by a fixed date - 2070, 2050 or even 2025. Yet as well intentioned as these endeavours may be, they simply won't cut it. The climate won't magically improve after we reach net zero. CO2 would remain built up in the atmosphere, meaning that the negative effects of the climate crisis we experience today would continue for centuries to come, with some effects, particularly the rise in sea levels, becoming ever worse.
There is a concept known as 'tipping points'. These are events which have the ability to fundamentally change a particular system. It is the point of no return for the climate. They may be the vanishing of natural carbon sinks, methane stored in permafrost, or even forest fires and the melting of the Arctic. These are the points beyond which the temperature stops being controlled solely by humans, and warming could spiral out of control. We don't know when we will reach these tipping points. We may have already hit them.
The climate crisis already has devastating consequences for millions around the world. Below is the World Meteorological Organisation's (WMO) report on the state of the climate at present below, and it's not pretty. The narrative that reaching net zero alone is sufficient sends the message that this is OK, both for now and for the future. We don't think that's acceptable.
Here are a few methods which could be used to remove CO2 and restore the climate. The list is by no means exhaustive: we have merely set out some of the most popular techniques. Worldward does not endorse any specific technology/company.
BioEnergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) involves growing plants and burning them in power stations as fuel. The CO2 would be removed from the fumes and stored underground. There are problems associated with land use and food security, and how effective this would actually be.
Whilst tree planting is an obvious and useful way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, there are concerns around scalability, and its impact on land use and food systems. Indeed the prevalence of forest fires make scientists question forests' ability to remove CO2 over extended periods of time, and indeed how permanent these removals would be.
If certain rocks are crushed up and spread on cropland, beaches or other sites, it can react with CO2 in the atmosphere or ocean, turn it into rock, and permanently store it. There are however problems associated with the mining of the rock, energy usage of crushing and cost. There are also health concerns.
Direct Air capture
Direct Air Capture involves using machines to suck CO2 out of the air. Air is passed over chemicals called sorbents to absorb, pump and capture C02 underground for storage. There are cost, material and energy use concerns.
The normal concrete-manufacturing process is responsible for about 6% of global emissions. By contrast, the chemical processes used to produce net negative concrete can actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere.