S1 #8 | Perceptions: How do we think and talk about carbon removal?

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

"We've sort of won the science communication challenge around climate change...of course the challenging thing now is communicating what we should do about it - which is much more complicated" (Emily Cox)

What we do about climate change may be one of the biggest questions of our generation. Everyone should be able to have their say. This means we need to start having conversations in earnest to understand how we really think and feel about carbon removal.

But these conversations about carbon removal may feel uncomfortable, a sad reflection on where we find ourselves and a dangerous distraction from the hard task of decarbonisation. How can we balance these concerns with others' hard-headed optimism to grow an industry we're all on board with?

Let's not forget too that research suggests a poor general understanding of carbon removal across the board, alongside a whole host of preconceptions about an industry that's barely off its feet. What can we learn from this?

And, of course, no conversation is free from choices around the language we use. Lingo, jargon - call it what you like, this space is full of it! And how we choose to deploy it may have real impacts for how people understand and build expectations of carbon removal (or maybe we should say "rebalancing the carbon cycle"...?).

Join Emily, Emily, Tom, Tom, Mike and all their mics to take a step back and check in on how we're thinking and feeling about everything we've learnt so far.

This episode's guests

Many thanks to our excellent guests in this episode:

  • Mike Childs, Head of Science, Policy and Research at Friends of the Earth
  • Emily Cox, Research Associate in environmental policy and social psychology at Cardiff University
  • Tom Mansfield, Founder and Director at Pale Blue Perspective

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 and reflect on how we perceive carbon removal, and we think you might like them too...

Our Reading List & Sources

NamePublisherPublishing/Release DateSourceSummaryTag(s)Type
A dangerous distraction: why offsetting will worsen the climate and nature emergencies
Carbon removal hype is becoming a dangerous distraction
MIT Technology Review
July 8, 2021
CriticismCorporate pledges
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
Too Many Companies Are Banking on Carbon Capture to Reach Net Zero
January 15, 2021
"Net zero is only as good as the net" - explores the problems of some companies over-relying on CDR to reach climate goals, which could lead to some troubling greenwash and ineffective CDR
Moral hazards
Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects?
January 18, 2021
How much are we considering environmental justice in our carbon removal projects and investments? At this nascent stage of the industry, we have a real opportunity to embed these considerations, to the benefit of generations to come.
Environmental justiceScaling up
What if carbon removal becomes the new Big Oil?
The Economist
July 4, 2020
Moving toward Net-Zero Emissions Requires New Alliances for Carbon Dioxide Removal
August 21, 2020
This gives some overview of CDR technologies and the barriers we face in scaling up their deployment (governance, policy, acceptability). It argues that industry, researchers, policy-makers and the public must come together to deliver.
EconomicsScaling upEvidence communicationPolicy
Academic Journal
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
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
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
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.
The Trouble with Negative Emissions
October 14, 2016
In defence of effective carbon offsetting
Emilien Hoet
April 27, 2021
This article argues that our theoretical opposition to offsetting must be overcome, for us to accept that offsetting forms at least a part of our trajectory to net zero. The author argues that fears of being accused of "greenwashing" can even put companies off taking any action.
CriticismOffsetsCorporate pledges
Is there value in temporary carbon removal?
Robert Hoglund
August 11, 2021
This article argues that temporary carbon removal credits do very little in contributing to solving or slowing the carbon crisis, and offers some alternative strategies (especially for companies) for contributing towards solving the situation.
AgriculturePermanenceCorporate pledgesMeasuring CO2OffsetsCriticism
Carbon Capture and Storage: technically possible, but politically and economically a bad idea
Richard Jones
June 23, 2019
An argument outlining the perils of reliance on CCS technology to reach net zero emissions
Various authors
January 5, 2021
A letter expressing that the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets should, for now, focus on quality of existing offsets, rather than scaling up a market (with justification).
OffsetsCriticismScaling upEconomics
'Silver bullet' ruled out
The Guardian
February 1, 2018
Scientists say climate targets cannot be met using the technologies, which either risk huge damage to the environment or are very costly
With Big Oil declining, carbon removal industry could take its place
October 27, 2020
Decrement carbon: Stripe's negative emissions commitment
August 15, 2019
Stripe's announcement and rationale behind their negative emissions commitment
OffsetsCorporate pledges

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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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