Global governments have agreed to work towards limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C, but little in their behaviour suggests they are taking the challenge seriously. The most recent climate analysis report by the IPCC warns that this pattern is set to continue, with a projected global rise of 3.2°C or more by 2100 if emissions aren’t drastically reduced and excess CO2 removed from the atmosphere. Current research at the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge University tackles how we can reinvigorate the world’s largest potential carbon sinks, which cover more than 70% of our planet’s surface. The IPCC report makes clear that cutting down on the use of fossil fuels is crucial to reducing emissions. Technical innovations to help us make this transition include using methane from landfill sites to heat buildings and building clean mass transportation systems.
Wealthy nations must step up to make these changes, while funding poorer nations’ plans to sidestep fossil fuel reliance. Carbon capture and storage technology is a vital tool in sectors where CO2 emissions are essentially unavoidable, but its high costs and energy usage make it an imperfect solution. The IPCC report puts faith in the farming industry unrolling dramatic changes to help sequester more carbon in soil over the next decade, but policy hasn’t caught up and vested interests in current farming methods create inertia. CCRC experiments are exploring the potential for regenerating ocean biomass as a way to store more carbon. Ocean biomass refers to communities of plants, fish and mammals that thrive near the surface, but send their shells, bones and decomposing vegetation permanently to the deep ocean, locking huge amounts of carbon into the seabed.
Expanding their numbers could bolster biodiversity, shore up fish stocks and provide income opportunities for marginalised communities across the world, as well as capturing tens of billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. The CCRC is exploring the potential for regenerating ocean biomass as a way to store more carbon. Ocean biomass refers to communities of plants, fish and mammals that thrive near the surface, but send their shells, bones and decomposing vegetation permanently to the deep ocean. Refreezing the Arctic would allow the jet stream to return to normal, buying us more time to work on reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. The challenges of reducing emissions by switching away from fossil fuels are largely political, not technical, but the benefits of cleaner air, better health and new jobs for millions in the alternative energy sector should outweigh short-term fears. We must also use our greatest natural resource to remove the excess carbon already released into the atmosphere if we are to create a manageable future for humanity.