Climate Action

Achieving climate restoration through CO2 removal

On November 8, EARTHDAY.ORG hosted a panel on climate restoration as part of its role as an official observer and lead partner of the Nature + Zone pavilion at COP26. Nick Nuttall, international strategic communications director at EARTHDAY.ORG, interviewed Peter Fiekowsky, founder and chairman of the Foundation for Climate Restoration, on making climate restoration possible.

Earth Day Live – Carbon Removal

What is climate restoration?

Many climate negotiations, including those at COP26, focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to reach targets such as the Paris Agreement. Yet, even if countries cut emissions immediately, this wouldn’t change the level of emissions already in the atmosphere. These emissions have been growing over the last 200 years

Climate restoration would remove and store the excess greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, already in our atmosphere. Combined with emissions reductions, climate restoration could return atmospheric carbon to pre-industrial levels, supporting a climate that has allowed humans and nature to thrive. 

The only future to save the planet

Fiekowsky, a physicist by training who has worked in the climate space for the past eight years,  believes the Paris Accords does not reduce carbon levels enough. He claims that we still don’t know whether we can live with those levels of carbon in the atmosphere. 

Climate restoration offers a solution that is economically feasible and reduces CO2 to levels we know to be livable. It all starts with looking at how nature has maintained an equilibrium of atmospheric CO2 and methane throughout history. 

Every time the world has entered an ice age, oceans played a significant role in absorbing enormous amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Fiekowsky spoke about catalyzing ocean processes that naturally absorb carbon in order to reduce atmospheric carbon levels. 

One idea involves adding iron dust to certain parts of the ocean to increase algae photosynthesis — a controversial method with the potential to store large amounts of carbon for a comparatively low cost. Other approaches to storing carbon include restoring coastal ecosystems and cultivating seaweed on a large scale.

Methane is naturally removed from the atmosphere from oxidation via chlorine. Researchers are also studying the potential of adding iron dust to this process, through ship exhaust, to accelerate the removal of methane. 

Reducing atmospheric methane by 40% could reduce global warming 0.4 ˚C by mid-century. However, further research into methane removal technology is needed to evaluate potential approaches.

We all have a part to play in climate restoration. You can use your voice to advocate for restoration solutions through education, research, and technology.

EARTHDAY.ORG hosted a series of other panels at COP26 on innovative solutions to climate change. If you want to learn more about how to get involved, check out the action page.