In which Emily daydreams about the carbon cycle
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Yesterday we released episode 6 of The Carbon Removal Show and the season is really flying by. Episode 6 tackles the biggest question that has faced every potential carbon capture solution outlined in Episodes 1-5: how do we get people to pay for carbon removal?
In the episode, Tom and Emily consider two promising answers to this question: carbon markets and carbon utilisation.
Reimagine carbon… It’s quite a task. We’ve been led to believe that it’s the enemy. That its presence in our atmosphere is causing unprecedented, and perhaps irreversible, damage to our planet. Carbon must be avoided at all costs.
That’s not true, of course. Carbon itself forms part of every living organism on earth. Carbon dioxide is what’s causing problems in the atmosphere, and only because it’s currently present in such vast, unnatural amounts. Carbon, in many different forms, is vital for life on this planet.
At the top of this week’s episode, Tom and I chat about things you can buy made from captured carbon and it got me thinking. No, it got me imagining...
If carbon could be responsibly captured from the atmosphere, used to produce versatile materials, turned into useful products that could be safely recycled or quickly biodegrade… Well, that would solve a good handful of problems all on its own!
Removing carbon from the atmosphere
Reducing the need for fossil-based plastics
Meeting consumer needs
Reducing plastic pollution
What a circular economy this would be. And with the enemy itself, carbon, at the very core of it all. Imagine that.
Yes, there are potential issues.
The adverbs I used in my dream scenario above are far easier imagined than achieved, e.g. responsibly, safely, quickly… (If you’re a listener of the show, this probably comes as no surprise.)
We don’t want to use carbon utilisation as an excuse to continue burning fossil fuels. If the output of that process suddenly became a valuable resource then it may well be an incentive to continue those bad emitting habits.
Pandering to current consumer needs allows us to remain in familiar patterns of excess consumption, which in itself is just not sustainable, no matter how abundant the source of our imagined materials (carbon) may seem right now.
Bioplastics as they currently exist are not the silver bullet solution for all our pollution and waste problems.
I guess, despite all these current issues, I just love the idea that carbon, the thing that we’ve known as The Problem all these years, could play a part in restoring the balance. And isn’t it plausible that we’ll develop beyond these issues? That, one day, the dream scenario could be realised? Who knows, but consider this your daily dose of hope for a clean, circular, nature-respecting future. Just in case you need it.
This episode’s guests
Many thanks to our excellent guests in this episode:
Sophie Purdom, Co-founder of Climate Tech VC & sustainable business practitioner and investor
Andrew Shebbeare, Managing Partner at Counteract
Rob Niven, Chair and CEO of CarbonCure
Apoorv Sinha, CEO and Co-founder of Carbon Upcycling Technologies
Thanks to Patch for sponsoring the podcast.
See you next week!
The Restored.cc team.