S1 #1 | The case for carbon removal

S1 #1 | The case for carbon removal

Contents: introduction, guest appearances, further reading, transcript, sources, credits

"The need is irrefutable. It's scientific fact. We need carbon removal" (Sophie Purdom)

If you're reading this, you've probably considered a certain question at some point in your life. It's the same question that puzzles the mind of many others, from activists to artists, businesses to busy parents: how do we heal the damage we've caused - and are still causing - in our planet's climate?

Step one - Plan A - has to be stopping our greenhouse gas emissions. But even if we managed to do that tomorrow (if only), we would still have an almighty mess to clean up.

And that's where carbon removal comes in.

When we started making this series, we didn't know much about carbon removal, so our first questions were naturally: why do we need it, and why now?

In this first episode, hosts Emily and Tom explore the case for carbon removal.

Want to delve deeper now you've listened to the show? Look no further than the list below of articles, podcasts and other resources. They helped us to learn more about the case for carbon removal, and we think you might like them too...

Our Reading List & Sources

NamePublisherPublishing/Release DateSourceSummaryTag(s)Type
Carbon removal hype is becoming a dangerous distraction
MIT Technology Review
July 8, 2021
CriticismCorporate pledges
Greenhouse gas emissions
Our World in Data
July 1, 2020
Global Warming of 1.5C
October 8, 2018
CO2 emissions change our atmosphere for centuries
Skeptical Science
July 5, 2015
Why Does CO2 get Most of the Attention When There are so Many Other Heat-Trapping Gases?
Union of Concerned Scientists
August 3, 2017
Includes a link to the modelling mentioned in the episode - where 40% CO2 remains after 100yrs, 20% after 1000yrs and 10% after 10,000yrs.
The CAT Thermometer
Climate Action Tracker
May 1, 2021
Carbon dioxide peaks near 420 parts per million at Mauna Loa observatory
June 7, 2021
CO2 concentrations
October 10, 2021
Climate science: The Big Picture
Skeptical Science
September 24, 2010
Five rules for evidence communication
November 19, 2020
A comment article in Nature, offering quick tips and experience from evidence communication. In short: inform, not persuade; offer balance, not false balance; disclose uncertainties; state evidence quality and inoculate against misinformation (i.e. "prebunking" - address concerns or potential misunderstandings directly).
Evidence communication
Nan Ransohoff and Ryan Orbuch, Stripe Climate Team
My Climate Journey
September 4, 2020
A conversation with two key members of Stripe's climate team, who are responsible for the company's negative emissions commitment made in 2019.
Corporate pledgesPolicyOffsetsEconomics
Carbon Capture Projects Map
Third Way
July 18, 2018
Map of all active (operational, planned etc) carbon capture projects in the world. Good overview of what's going on where. Correct as of mid-2018.
A Matter of Degrees: Cleaning up the carbon mess
A Matter of Degrees
November 19, 2020
An exploration of different ways that we can remove carbon from the atmosphere. A great place to start on your carbon removal journey.
Carbon Removal Mechanisms
Carbon Plan
July 24, 2020
This article provides a very useful introduction to the carbon cycle, and how the carbon removal mechanisms discussed in the series interact with it. In particular, the distinction between avoided emissions and negative emissions is worth paying attention to.
Carbon cycleOverview
Removing CO2 from the atmosphere won't save us
The Conversation
December 7, 2015
An article from two climate scientists, explaining why we must prioritise emission reductions over carbon removals. Published during the Paris climate conference in 2015.
CriticismScaling up
Carbon removal academy (free course)
John Sanchez
November 30, 2020
Academy with articles, videos and other useful resources split into different chapters. The Carbon Removal Academy is a useful course for getting up to speed with all things carbon removal.
From tree planting to CO2-sucking machines: How could ‘negative emissions’ help to tackle the climate crisis?
The Independent
February 10, 2021
A good overview of negative emissions in general, including the challenges faced by each NET
Without carbon capture, the world can't meet its climate targets
January 10, 2021
We need to take CO2 out of the sky
Ryan Orbuch
February 22, 2020
A carbon removal 101, written by a non-specialist after a few months of learning. Useful for understanding different measurements of CO2, and for accessing his own reading list for "negative emissions"
OverviewMeasuring CO2
Carbon Removal Glossary
Foresight Transitions
March 1, 2021
This spreadsheet provides definitions for well over 100 phrases associated with carbon removal.
Public perceptions of carbon dioxide removal in the United States and the United Kingdom
July 1, 2020
A study of public perceptions of CDR in the UK and US - lots of interesting findings to dig into, including outlining some of the objections that the public may raise to the use of CDR.
Public perceptions
Academic Journal
Intro to 10 'negative emission' technologies
Carbon Brief
April 11, 2016
A whistle-stop tour of 10 major techniques to remove GHGs from atmosphere, along with a helpful diagram and set of explanations.
Carbon Dioxide Removal Primer
Various authors
January 1, 2021
A summary of all things carbon dioxide removal related, written by several experts in the field. An invaluable resource, available as a book or freely available online.
Negative Emissions source materials
May 1, 2020
A link to applications completed by different CDR projects for support as part of Stripe's negative emissions commitment
Corporate pledgesOverview
The Earth's Carbon Cycle: animated diagram
Robert Rohde
May 22, 2019
Really nice video of the cabron cycle and how it has changed since pre-industrial era
Carbon cycle
Greenhouse gases must be scrubbed from the air
The Economist
November 16, 2017
An early introduction to the need for extracting CO2 from the atmosphere, for hard-to-abate sectors. Uses the example of Sweden's decarbonisation pledge.
Carbon removal permanence calculator
Carbon Plan
December 9, 2020
This calculator estimates the upfront costs needed to make a temporary carbon removal strategy permanent over time, and allows comparisons with more permanent techniques.
Carbon cyclePermanenceEconomics
We need to talk about carbon removal
October 1, 2018
The positive allure of negative emissions
August 9, 2019

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Emily Swaddle 0:01 So we need a logo.

Tom Previte 0:03 Yes,

Emily Swaddle 0:04 like any good podcast, we need a visualization of what we are chatting about, so that we can lure some people in.

Tom Previte 0:10 Yeah, some fancy graphics.

Emily Swaddle 0:12 Here's what I'm thinking, Tom, I've got an idea. I want you to picture us. And there's like a van and you're in the driving seat, like waving out the window. And I'm like, coming to the back of the van carrying a large box, what's in the box, you say, CO2, putting it in the van? Because it's a removal van, removing carbon.

Tom Previte 0:35 I get it.

Emily Swaddle 0:36 It's like we are the carbon removal people. Sort of a "who you gonna call?" situation. You're gonna call us because we remov the carbon. Does that mean we've nailed it and come up with the best logo idea ever? I think we probably have. Gonna be the background for my laptop.

Tom Previte 1:02 We can't deny that societally, we have a problem with carbon.

Emily Swaddle 1:07 And the question is, how do we get this one-way carbon traffic that's being pumped into our atmosphere back into a natural cycle?

Tom Previte 1:16 From where I'm sitting, that kind of feels like a truly monumental shift?

Emily Swaddle 1:20 I think it is. And I think it's a vital one.

Tom Previte 1:23 I'm Tom Previte.

Emily Swaddle 1:25 And I'm Emily Swaddle.

Tom Previte 1:26 And this is The Carbon Removal Show.

Emily Swaddle 1:29 Over the course of this series, we're going to explore carbon removal; what it is, what it looks like, why it's important, who's doing it right now, and generally, what all the fuss is about.

Tom Previte 1:40 Unfussing the fuss.

Emily Swaddle 1:41 Yeah, exactly. So in this episode, we'll be introducing the problem and discussing why carbon removal is increasingly being seen as a major part of the solution.

Tom Previte 1:51 Essentially, we're going to be asking, why are we interested in carbon removal? And why do we need it now?

Emily Swaddle 2:00 I think honestly, most people know the problem by now, certainly the people listening to this podcast. Honestly, you only need to take sort of a quick glance at the news, turn it on for three seconds at the minute and you'll see that the world is really waking up to the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Mostly because we're seeing real time effects right in front of us on our streets.

Tom Previte 2:24 Anthropogenic climate change; that's essentially climate change due to human activities, which could include burning fossil fuels or deforestation or farming.

Emily Swaddle 2:32 Yep, it's here, whether we like it or not. We do not. And it's likely going to get a lot worse. And right now, we're just acting too slowly to make the changes that we need to make. At its most simple, this is really a problem of mathematics. So let's look at the basics. We know that a major cause of anthropogenic climate change is the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These include gases like methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. But by far the worst offender is carbon dioxide, CO2. This is both because we're releasing it in very large quantities. And because once it's released, it stays in the atmosphere for a really, really long time, meaning it can continue to heat up the planet for hundreds, or even thousands of years.

Tom Previte 2:39 Right. And for the sake of simplicity, throughout this series, we'll be referring to our emissions in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents. And this is a handy way for us to lump together all these greenhouse gases into one simple metric. We know that human activities are currently releasing about 50 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents into the atmosphere each year. A gigaton is a billion tons.

Emily Swaddle 3:43 We know that plenty of these gases already exist in the atmosphere in lower levels. So I want to picture a bit more specifically what the problem is here. The idea that we have too much carbon in the atmosphere right now. It's just a bit too vague for me. So Tom, I told you this was a maths problem. And I've got some numbers for you.

Tom Previte 4:03 Come on Emily, hit me.

Emily Swaddle 4:04 Before we started pumping out CO2 With that manic intensity that we did during and following on from the Industrial Revolution, the global average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was about 280 parts per million. That means for every million particles in the atmosphere, 280 of them were CO2. Nowadays, we're going up to about 420 parts per million, and that number is getting higher every single year.

Tom Previte 4:34 To be honest, these don't really sound like particularly big numbers.

Emily Swaddle 4:38 Yeah, I suppose it's true, like we're not in the 1000s or anything, and we're talking parts per million, but those carbon dioxide molecules have a major effect on global heating. And since we started adding so much CO2 to the atmosphere, we've already seen an increase of over one degree Celsius of global heating. And again, one degree doesn't sound like all that much, but it actually makes a huge difference. And what's really scary is how quickly these increases are happening.

Tom Previte 5:06 And this is all happening, because our planet just isn't able to cope with the quantities of these greenhouse gases and the speed at which we're emitting them. We've all heard of the carbon cycle, which is this process by which carbon cycles between various earth systems, such as the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, which is the water, the biosphere, which is the living organisms, carbon particles are constantly moving between these different parts of the planet, which means that the atmospheric levels of carbon are usually well regulated, certainly, for as long as human civilizations have been alive, that atmospheric carbon has stayed relatively stable.

Emily Swaddle 5:43 Yes, until now, that is. The rate at which we're emitting carbon dioxide is simply way faster than the earth's systems can pull it back out of the atmosphere. And because of this, the co2 that we emit today, risks heating up the planet for years to come. So this is a really simplified example I'm going to give you but let's imagine the emissions from a power plant over the course of one year. 100 years on, models suggests that in effect, 40% of their CO2 is still in the atmosphere. 1000 years on from those original emissions, 20% is thought to still be there. And even after 10,000 years, 10% of the original emissions will still be in the atmosphere. The actual process and the carbon cycle is a lot more complex than that. But that's just to give you an idea of where our emissions are going, or actually where they're staying.

Tom Previte 6:38 Right. So the carbon cycle is out of kilter. Over millions of years, a lot of carbon was locked away, underground, away from the atmosphere. Now in the space of a couple of 100 years, we've pumped a load of that back into the atmosphere all at once so quickly that our natural systems just can't keep up. And this leaves our descendants and the world around them over the next 1000, even 10,000 years to take the heat from our emissions today.

Emily Swaddle 7:04 But we don't actually have to continue on this path. It's not inevitable. We actually have two levers that we can pull if we want to improve things here. So far, most of the conversation about mitigating climate change has been about reducing the rate at which we pump CO2 into the atmosphere. This is what we're really talking about when we're talking about decarbonisation; renewable energy, electric cars, cleaner industrial processes, and all that. But these efforts are increasingly being seen as inadequate to solve the problem fully and effectively. Firstly, this is because as we've said, there are hundreds of gigatons of emissions from the past century and a half of human activities that are already causing climate change, and leading to disastrous effects. All that carbon is in the air, it's not going anywhere. Secondly, we're simply decarbonizing too slowly to keep climate change to a manageable level. And thirdly, because we know that will be leftover emissions, from hard to decarbonize industries for a really long time, things like aviation and construction, you know that proving slow to decarbonize? It's not easy. And so that's still going to be emitting even if everything else is decarbonized. In other words, we're not decarbonizing fast enough, we probably won't decarbonize fast enough. And even if we did, we still have a lot of stuff in the atmosphere to deal with.

Tom Previte 8:31 Exactly. And that's where this second lever comes in: increasing the rate at which carbon comes back down. We might see it as giving the carbon cycle a helping hand, and restoring a bit of that balance to this process. This is exactly what we mean when we talk about carbon removal.

Emily Swaddle 8:47 So Tom, what did you know about carbon removal? Before we got into all this,

Tom Previte 8:51 in all honesty, I really didn't actually know that much. I've got a startup social enterprise background. And my interest in climate and climate change really came about over the last couple of years, having spent lots of time with early stage entrepreneurs that were looking at opportunities in these spaces. And I had heard about this carbon removal industry, this ethereal thing that people mentioned in whispers. And I understood fundamentally that it meant taking carbon which had been emitted and somehow bringing it back down or removing it from the atmosphere. But I didn't really understand the different solutions that were there, the policies that were in place. What about you?

Emily Swaddle 9:35 Yeah, I didn't know all that much about it either. My background is sort of in building communities for climate action and some climate education stuff. And as we've already sort of mentioned, the focus was always on decarbonisation; lowering our impact by lowering our emissions. And carbon removal was just sort of like something that was like a thing of the future, I think. I guess we're now in the future. because it's here.

Tom Previte 10:00 And that mitigation reduction part is often the center of attention in climate conversation. And maybe rightly so. But discussions around carbon removal have really been heating up lately. Excuse the pun.

Emily Swaddle 10:13 You know, I won't excuse the pun, Tom, I love a pun. I will applaud it. Yeah, and that increasing enthusiasm around this topic is really what drew me in, you know, I didn't know a lot about it and it seemed like it was becoming more and more important in this whole climate conversation. Something that's really struck me as we've explored this subject is the difference between public perception of carbon removal and the importance that more and more climate scientists are placing on it as a like really integral part of our whole future. I think most people, you know, like us either don't really know that much about it, or assume it's a relatively minor part of the solution when it comes to climate change. But most of the experts that we've been speaking to and reading about have emphasized that it's absolutely vital if we're going to keep to our climate goals.

Tom Previte 11:04 Totally true. Take the IPCC, for instance. Throughout this series, we're going to be drawing on a lot of work from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They bring together 1000s of the world's top experts who review the latest evidence and come to consensus positions on all things climate change.

Emily Swaddle 11:23 It's sort of the climate gospel from scientists from around the world. And when the IPCC says something, the world should really sit up and pay attention.

Tom Previte 11:33 And in one of their most recent reports, their main message was that we need to do everything that we can to limit global warming to that 1.5 degrees in order to avoid evermore catastrophic impacts. In all of their scenarios that managed to keep just 1.5 degrees of warming, even those where we decarbonize as quickly as possible, we still needed carbon removal, and not just, you know, some at a certain point down the line. We're talking a lot starting now.

Emily Swaddle 12:01 Over the next few episodes, we'll be speaking with scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and a host of other experts, who are really leading this effort and helping to make carbon removal a reality. We asked a few of them, why is carbon removal so important?

Unknown Speaker 12:18 We hear a lot about we have to get to net zero, we have to stop emissions. And don't get me wrong, I completely agree we should stop as many emissions on the planet as we can. But in getting to zero, I would make the point that one plus minus one is also zero. So if we have an emission, and we can permanently, safely and measurably eliminate that emission, that's also net zero.

Unknown Speaker 12:44 Toward the end of 2018, the IPCC's 1.5 degree report, that was one of the first times that it was recognized that all scenarios to keep us under 1.5 degrees of warming require some kind of carbon removal. And it's not a little bit of carbon removal. It's between five and 15 gigatons per year by the year 2050, which is just a massive amount.

Unknown Speaker 13:05 These negative emissions technologies are going to become more and more important as time goes on, especially as we see we're not making our targets, we're going to need to start pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Unknown Speaker 13:18 244 companies are discharging 32 billion tons a year and nothing's changed. So when we're running out of time, so maybe let's at least mobilize a Plan B while we're trying to figure out how to get that side working.

Unknown Speaker 13:30 The need is irrefutable. It's scientific fact. We need CDR - just go open up the IPCC reports, right. And the basics on that is basically a bathtub problem of the stock that's in the air right now of greenhouse gases is very high, and we need to both turn off the faucet so there's less flowing in, but also drain some of the tub. And the way that you drain the water in the tub is by removing it from the atmosphere.

Tom Previte 14:00 Our focus on carbon removal in this series is not to downplay the importance of emissions reduction. We're not trying to steal limelight away from the vitally important work of decarbonisation, but if we only focus on decarbonisation, we're just missing a huge opportunity.

Emily Swaddle 14:18 As so many of our guests have been keen to point out, decarbonisation is also essential. But as we've just discussed, even if we could flip a switch tomorrow, and not emit any more greenhouse gases, we'd still need carbon removal, it's just a part of the equation that we cannot afford to ignore.

Emily Swaddle 14:40 Right, okay, let's have a terminology check. I love a little language chat.

Tom Previte 14:47 You do love your language chats, Emily

Emily Swaddle 14:50 Yeah, well, there's a lot of terminology to wrap our heads around in this topic. So we're just going to quickly whip through it. I really think we need this.

Tom Previte 14:58 So we've already been throwing around phrases like carbon removal, mitigation reduction and what have you. And that's just the beginning.

Emily Swaddle 15:05 Yeah. So throughout the series, we'll be referring to carbon removal by which we mean removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and maybe hopefully, then finding something else to do with it or somewhere else to put it.

Tom Previte 15:18 And this is sometimes also called negative emissions. You've also got CDR, which stands for carbon dioxide removal, drawdown, these are all one and the same.

Emily Swaddle 15:27 You might have also heard the terms carbon capture, carbon capture and storage, carbon capture use and storage. These are all related terms, slightly different concepts, and with different implications that we'll be getting into in coming episodes.

Tom Previte 15:42 Something else we hear a lot about these days is net zero. It's the big buzzword right now.

Emily Swaddle 15:48 Yeah, it is a big buzzword, everyone's doing it, or at least claiming that they're doing it. And when someone says net zero, they mean net zero carbon emissions. Your net emissions are the sum of your emissions and your negative emissions. So therefore, if you're a company, for instance, you can achieve net zero by sort of cancelling out your carbon emissions through negative emissions, and cancelling out is used there very loosely. So that's why it's called net zero and not just zero.

Tom Previte 16:23 And, as we've mentioned, aiming for zero emissions globally, tomorrow, for example, is unrealistic. And which you'll remember, is one of the reasons why we need carbon removal. And companies go about achieving net zero with the help of carbon credits. A carbon credit isn't something tangible that you can hold in your hand, but it's something that you can purchase as sort of a promise of either carbon being removed from the atmosphere or carbon emissions being avoided altogether. These two categories of credits mirror the mitigation versus removal distinction, and they are both measured in tons. So one removal credit equals one ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere. And one avoidance credits equals the prevention of a ton of CO2 from entering the atmosphere that otherwise could have been emitted.

Emily Swaddle 17:12 Exactly. On a global scale, the IPCC recognizes net zero carbon dioxide emissions as when anthropogenic CO2 emissions are balanced globally by anthropogenic CO2 removals over a specified period. That's a direct quote from the IPCC.

Tom Previte 17:30 Beyond net zero is the idea of net negative carbon emissions. If we do manage to get emissions to net zero, the atmospheric parts per million will stabilize. But it's only once we get to a net negative world where that parts per million number might start coming down.

Emily Swaddle 17:48 And that's what we're aiming for fewer parts per million. Thank you for indulging my language chat, Tom.

Tom Previte 17:55 You're welcome.

Emily Swaddle 17:56 I think it's good to acknowledge that a lot of this is probably well known amongst our listeners, you know that they're not brand new to this, but for some listeners, it will be new stuff. And so it's really good to sort of clarify where we're starting from.

Tom Previte 18:10 For sure. And actually, these clarifications might be vital. In 2020, the Tyndall Center found that less than 10% of Americans were familiar with carbon removal and less than 6% of Brits.

Emily Swaddle 18:21 Yeah, that's kind of exactly why we're here right? Over the research that we've done about carbon removal - and you know, I'm still no expert - but I can tell you that it's more important than I ever imagined. And it's a really huge topic. The fact that so many of us still don't really know much about this is exactly the point of this show. We want to start a conversation or you know, incite some curiosity or point people in the right direction to learn more about this.

Tom Previte 18:52 Absolutely. And I've got no doubt that even in the months since that report from the Tyndall Center was released, those numbers will have increased. I don't think it's just us that's been hearing more and more about carbon removal this year. But as you said, for just how important this topic is, there's still not nearly enough clear information about it out there.

Tom Previte 19:14 So we've discussed the problem a little bit. Why don't we chat about some solutions, Emily?

Emily Swaddle 19:18 Solutions! That's we're about. But we don't want to get too ahead of ourselves. This is only episode one, Tom.

Tom Previte 19:25 Yeah, I know. But just a little teaser, you know, maybe whet the appetite.

Emily Swaddle 19:29 A sort of amuse bouche, like a shallow snorkel rather than a deep dive sort of thing.

Tom Previte 19:37 Let's go with that. And thanks to our language clarification there, we talked about goals for net zero and the idea of purchasing carbon credits.

Emily Swaddle 19:46 Yeah and actually already alluded to the hidden complexity of all this. Whatever process we choose to offset carbon emissions will have costs of its own. Biodiversity loss maybe or resource use or human costs or maybe other energy costs. So if we're going to help solve the climate emergency by pulling that second lever, by drawing down carbon from the atmosphere, here are some things we're going to need from our solutions.

Tom Previte 20:12 First up affordability. In this space, we often talk about this in terms of cost per ton, what it's going to cost us to remove one tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And these costs can vary significantly between the different solutions. And it's something big to consider. And beyond the financial costs, Emily, you've already mentioned some other important considerations.

Emily Swaddle 20:34 Yes! Land, freshwater energy, they're already in really high demand. So future innovations need to be very careful with these resources.

Tom Previte 20:44 Yeah, totally agree. And this also brings us to our next consideration, scalability. A lot of the solutions we'll be looking at over this series are already being deployed in different settings to help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But we know we need to go bigger, a lot bigger. We're currently emitting around 50 gigatons of CO2 equivalents each year. We want to get that as low as possible. And even then, we're still going to have to remove at the gigaton scale.

Emily Swaddle 21:11 And actually, the only way we'll know how close we are to actually achieving this is with accurate measurement. Something we're going to look at with many of our guests throughout the series is how accurately we can measure the removal potential of each of these proposed solutions. This is really important, not only so that we know how well we're doing, but also so that we can put a price on each turn, hopefully a really accurate price.

Tom Previte 21:38 And the final big question that we're going to be asking through this series is does this solve the problem long term?

Emily Swaddle 21:46 Permanence! Woohoo, another big word for us! A word you'll be hearing a lot from us over the coming episodes.

Tom Previte 21:53 Yeah. And it's one thing capturing carbon dioxide. But if it's then released back into the atmosphere a year later, it hasn't solved our problem. Think back to that carbon cycle. We're trying to restore the balance there so we need long term solutions.

Emily Swaddle 22:07 This question of exactly what long term means and how to achieve it is a really important part of this debate.

Tom Previte 22:14 With these themes in mind, as we progress through this season, we're going to be looking into the solutions that can be broadly split into two categories, nature based solutions, and technological or engineered solutions.

Emily Swaddle 22:27 So essentially, we're going to be talking about trees and robots.

Tom Previte 22:32 Exactly.

Emily Swaddle 22:32 I mean, trees is a really big one when it comes to nature based solutions. Obviously, their natural capacity for sequestering carbon is, you know, well advertised, I would say, but there are other natural carbon sinks too. And we can help them to actually do that job better. These solutions often have all sorts of other benefits as well alongside the carbon removal, and we already have the capacity to deploy them. But some of our guests will point out that the reliability of nature based solutions is still uncertain.

Tom Previte 23:04 That's where our tech solutions come in. Examples could include direct air capture or bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. But building machines and technologies that remove carbon from the air can be expensive,

Emily Swaddle 23:18 Really expensive and introducing all sorts of technical terms that we don't know about yet.

Tom Previte 23:22 That's the point of the podcast. But can these costs come down over time? And can these tech based solutions exceed some of the natural solutions in terms of permanence or land use needs? We're going to go further into these pros and cons in later episodes, because as with everything, there are complexities and nuances.

Emily Swaddle 23:42 Oh, and there's a final consideration that we definitely should mention: people. You know, the human, societal element of all this. We've already talked a bit about public perception, which is obviously one side of it. But this emerging field will affect people around the world in all kinds of different ways. As technologies develop, and land use changes and resources are redirected, humans will be undoubtedly affected. And sadly, it's often marginalized, or some of the most vulnerable societies that bear the brunt of this kind of development. Personally, I feel that with this new field, we have the chance to change that, or if we're not careful to repeat it. So how can we tread carefully as we dive into all this innovation? Along with the questions of finance and resources, this, you know, really links to policy and the relationship between affected peoples and policymakers.

Tom Previte 24:37 There's so much to get into. And we're not going to have time in this first season to explore every solution in depth nor cover every angle of the solutions that we do discuss. But you know, that's what season 2, 3, 4, 5 even are hopefully for. Fingers crossed.

Emily Swaddle 24:53 Yes, optimism. I love it.

Emily Swaddle 24:58 I'm excited about this, Tom. I feel a lot of energy, a lot of anticipation for this.

Tom Previte 25:03 And there's just so much to get our teeth stuck into here, you know?

Emily Swaddle 25:06 Yeah. And it feels really timely. You know, you said, Tom, the carbon removal space is heating up and people are really talking about it, tweeting about it, starting new ventures in the space. And I feel really lucky that we've had the chance to speak to some of those innovators who are out there working on these new, inspiring technologies and techniques. And we've spoken to some really impressive veterans in this field too. And it may seem like this is just something that's emerging right now but people have been working in this field and been working on carbon removal for decades, actually, and there's a lot of expertise out there. It's great to get that range of experience and insight.

Tom Previte 25:44 It really is. And what's more, we need this now more than we ever have before. The scale of the net zero challenge has become ever more apparent and our failure to act quickly enough means carbon removal solutions are becoming more and more vital.

Emily Swaddle 25:58 Yeah, exactly. And a decade ago, much of the science and technology that the space relies on just wasn't there yet. It wasn't ready. You know, some may argue that it still isn't ready. And we'll get into all that. But we have spent the last decade or so accumulating knowledge and learning so that the tech can now be implemented. Well, when I say we, of course, I obviously mean a community of scientists and engineers and researchers and all sorts of people who are much more qualified than myself. They've been working very hard on all our behalf.

Tom Previte 26:29 A decade ago, we weren't ready. But in a decade's time, it's going to be too late. And the case is clear. We're experiencing the effects already of climate change. And now is the time to act on this and it has to be fast.

Emily Swaddle 26:43 Right, let's get going.

Tom Previte 27:30 Thanks so much to our team who make this series possible.

Emily Swaddle 27:32 Our researcher and fact checker Henry Irvine,

Tom Previte 27:36 our composer Sam Carter,

Emily Swaddle 27:38 our graphic designer, Rekai Campbell,

Tom Previte 27:41 our editor Mercy Barno,

Emily Swaddle 27:43 our producer, Ben Weaver-Hincks,

Tom Previte 27:45 our project manager Patrick Carter

Emily Swaddle 27:48 and our executive producer Sam Floy.

Tom Previte 27:50 Thank you so much for listening to this first episode of the Carbon Removal Show.

Emily Swaddle 27:55 If you liked this first episode, subscribe and leave us a review and help us reach as many people as possible.

Tom Previte 28:01 Join us next time when we're going to be talking about trees. Specifically why trees alone won't save us.

Emily Swaddle 28:07 Good cheery note to end on there, Tom. To learn more go to restored.cc. See you next time!


The Carbon Removal Show is a Restored.cc and Cofruition production. We are sponsored by Patch. Here's who made this episode happen:

  • Emily Swaddle & Tom Previte - co-hosts
  • Ben Weaver-Hincks - producer
  • Henry Irvine - researcher
  • Sam Floy & Patrick Carter - project managers
  • Mercy Barno - editor
  • Sam Carter - music producer

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The Carbon Removal Show

by Restored.cc

A better future is possible