CO<sub>2</sub> + Climate Change
Carbon Dioxide + Climate Change
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere that retain solar radiation, aka heat, and play a major role in balancing the planet’s climate. Imagine standing on the street in New York City or any other typically cold climate in the winter without a jacket or any protective layers. You’re going to quickly lose body heat from standing. This is a great analogy to help understand GHGs and how they influence the Earth’s fluctuating temperature. So, in the same way that your jacket would prevent the heat from leaving your body to keep you warm, GHGs function as an outer layer wrapped around the planet, keeping it warm.
GHGs including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) naturally occur in our Earth’s atmosphere and trap heat similar to a greenhouse, hence their name. CO2 is one of the most challenging gases to address due to its abundance and association with human activity; this is why we measure and discuss climate goals in CO2 equivalents. While GHGs are naturally occurring (via photosynthesis, oceanic processes, etc.) and play a major role in the Earth’s atomic makeup, human activity has caused these gases to be emitted at unprecedented rates. This rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 levels is responsible for a number of impacts, ranging from extreme heat, wildfires and droughts to stronger and more frequent storm events. This change, driven by progress and high levels of energy consumption required by the growing global economy, is referred to as anthropogenic climate change. Starting a little more than 200 years ago, we began to rely on extracting fossil fuels; these were used as sources of energy to power everything from transportation to manufacturing. Combusting these fuels, however, is a highly carbon-intensive process, expelling large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. This surge in carbon emissions has kept a “blanket” around the planet, causing it to store heat from the sun that would normally escape back into outer space.
To slow the rate of warming, we have to remove some of the blanket layers.
Our atmosphere is a cocktail composed of a number of gases that are both naturally occurring and exacerbated by human activity. These gases are measured in various ways to track air pollution levels and the GHGs that contribute to planetary warming. To better understand the history of CO2 concentrations, scientists measure gas bubbles that have remained trapped in arctic ice cores for millions of years. Over time, new layers form; the deeper an ice core, the older the formation. Samples from these bubbles provide researchers insight into the atmospheric makeup of the planet, allowing us to understand how CO2 concentrations have changed throughout time.
There is a general agreement within the scientific community that CO2 levels are at their highest in millions of years. Hand-in-hand with this consensus is the looming responsibility of human behavior on this planetary shift. In 2015, The Paris Agreement, an international agreement between 196 parties on climate change and emissions reductions, was adopted. The agreement set attainable warming targets that can only be met if we cut emissions and simultaneously work to rapidly remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
Climate forcing is a general concept used to measure and describe Earth’s energy balance and how this results in warming or cooling patterns. The Earth is showered in the sun’s radiation consistently, which is meant to be reflected back into outer space. In an ideal scenario, what is absorbed is equally emitted back into space to maintain a state of balance. However, when the radiation coming in does not equal what goes out, we see what’s called positive climate forcing. This causes a pattern of increasing warmth. This means that expelling CO2 in abundance pushes this warming trend because it prevents the sun’s heat from escaping Earth.
CO2 as a Solution
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a body of the United Nations that works to understand and articulate the science of climate change. In short, the consensus is that the planet is undoubtedly warming, backed by historical data and metrics. The 2022 IPCC report highlights that carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies will play a key role in tackling climate change. These technologies promote capturing CO2 directly at the source of emission (i.e., industrial facilities) and either utilizing the gas for other purposes and displacing more carbon-intensive feedstocks or injecting it into the ground for permanent storage.
AIR COMPANY believes that our biggest challenge can also be our greatest ally. We’ve invented a technology that allows us to transform CO2 - the culprit behind climate change - into valuable consumer and industrial products. By utilizing CO2 captured at the emitting source, and by eventually displacing conventional, fossil-fuel-based products with our low carbon-intensity alternative products, we can meaningfully contribute to mitigating climate change. Our technology can propel the transition to a circular carbon economy where we recycle emitted CO2, or use carbon removed from the air as a versatile building block for a number of products. This is the pathway towards displacing carbon-intensive, fossil-fuel based commodities.
There are several CCUS companies working to scale their technologies to address CO2 across different sectors, and we are thrilled to be part of these emerging solutions working to preserve and protect our planet.