Why carbon removal? It's the "challenge we are unwilling to postpone."

Fighting climate change is a huge task. Here at the Center for Carbon Removal, we’ve chosen to focus on one piece of this fight: carbon removal. But when we tell people that our mission is to accelerate the development of approaches to remove and sequester excess carbon dioxide from the environment, they frequently ask, “why focus on carbon removal? That sounds really hard…” The answer to that question is important, and the long version comes in two parts, below.

Part 1: Carbon removal is a critical, yet missing, component in the fight against climate change. Leading climate experts (including the IPCC, National Research Council, and the Global Carbon Project) are increasingly convinced that we will need to remove and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a large scale in order to prevent dangerous climate change.

Actually deploying scalable, sustainable carbon removal solutions to meet this challenge, however, poses a problem. While scientists and entrepreneurs are working to develop a wide range of possible carbon removal solutions, no single carbon removal approach has demonstrated its ability to reach significant scale in a sustainable and economically/politically viable manner. This issue makes developing such carbon removal solutions a critical priority in the fight against climate change.

What’s more, investing in the development of carbon removal solutions can bring additional benefits in the fight against climate change. For example, carbon removal solutions can:

  1. Help reduce the overall cost of preventing climate change by offering a bridge to decarbonize the economy more smoothly. Many have touted the idea of “net-zero” emissions as a more efficient way to wean our economy from carbon emissions (as opposed to direct decarbonization) – but “net-zero” is only possible with the development of carbon removal solutions.
  2. Offer a breath of fresh air in traditionally polarized climate conversations, in the process helping to build the bipartisan coalitions needed to accelerate our existing efforts to fight climate change.
  3. Provide new tools for businesses across the energy, agriculture, forestry, mining, and manufacturing industries (to name just a few) to grow sustainably in a changing climate. Many carbon removal systems offer potential co-benefits around water use, food security, and climate adaptation – but climate-motivated research and development is critical for unlocking these co-benefits for these systems.

Part 2: We think an environmental NGO like ours can have a catalytic impact the fight against climate change.

Having spoken with hundreds of public-, private-, and civil-sector organizations about this topic, we see that industry and policy support are critical for carbon removal solutions to flourish – but that this support is largely absent today.

We think we can change that. The industry and policy leaders we’ve spoken with are also telling us that they are eager to engage in developing carbon removal solutions. They want to learn more about the topic, and they want more opportunities to collaborate with others interested in designing and implementing strategies to develop carbon removal solutions.

The Center for Carbon Removal stands poised to provide this critical leadership and support for industry and policymakers interested in developing carbon removal solutions. The Center is a business-minded environmental NGO, but we have no vested interest in seeing a particular technology, policy, or removal approach implemented. As a result, we can provide research and analysis, convene events, and develop communications campaigns in a way that is grounded in technical, political, and economic reality. This unbiased, analytic approach and exclusive focus on carbon removal is our differentiator that will enable us to accomplish our mission.

Conclusion:

Here at the Center for Carbon Removal, we know that developing scalable, sustainable carbon removal solutions will be very difficult, and time-intensive. But as JFK said in his famous 1962 speech, “we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

So when people ask us “why focus on carbon removal? That sounds really hard…” we can tell them: carbon removal is the challenge we are willing to accept, the one we are unwilling to postpone, and the one we intend to win.