CO2 reduction: what are negative emissions?
According to experts, the 1.5 degree target of the Paris climate agreement can hardly be reached. Because to stop the climate crisis, the mere reduction of emissions is simply not enough. Instead, CO2 must also be removed from the atmosphere – but how does it work? Can carbon dioxide simply be “pulled out of the air” again? In this article we will explain to you what “negative emissions” are and which CO2 reduction methods already exist.
Negative emissions for a positive climate balance
Anything but a zero number: In order to curb global warming, a net zero climate balance is being strived for. To do this, not only does carbon dioxide have to be extracted from the atmosphere, it also has to be stored permanently. In this case, one speaks of carbon dioxide capture, or CDR for Carbon Dioxide Removal. The fact that we will need this method in the future is already clear in the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) .
Negative emissions - definition
Don't worry if you can't remember the complex terms - these processes and corresponding technologies are also referred to as "negative emissions". Their long-term goal is for all man-made greenhouse gas emissions to be removed from the atmosphere through mitigation measures. This can be brought about both naturally and artificially.
Ready to delve deeper into the complex procedures?
How does the CO2 get out of the atmosphere again?
CO2 reduction methods serve as an extension to the natural reduction of carbon dioxide and can be divided into biological , geochemical and technological methods . We would like to introduce you to some of them:
Biological processes for reducing CO2
Reforestation: Large-scale planting of trees creates new forests in the long term. Trees are the most natural way of storing CO2, as they absorb carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
Sustainable forestry: Forests store more than two billion tons of carbon in soils and biomass. Human intervention in the global carbon cycle destroys forests through overexploitation, deforestation or natural disasters, which in turn leads to the release of the carbon stored in the soil. Sustainable management is therefore immensely important.
Appropriate soil management: The soil ecosystem not only safeguards biodiversity and plays an important role in water regulation, but also stores large amounts of carbon. Currently, however, almost a quarter of the world's land area is affected by degradation through erosion, development, etc. It is therefore necessary to question the use of our natural resources more deeply.
Restoration of coastal wetlands and rewetting of peatlands: Even if peatlands cover only about 3% of the world's surface area, they are true masters at sequestering CO2. At around 500 gigatonnes, they bind twice as much carbon as all the forests on earth put together. If you are interested in the topic, be sure to check out our blog article on the importance of bogs .
Pyrolysis: Biomass and industrial residues are thermochemically broken down into products such as charcoal, specified biocarbons, premium oils, renewable energy and even plastics, building materials and packaging.
Geochemical methods for CO2 sinks
Artificial rock weathering: During the weathering of rock, CO2 is bound. Although this process is automatic in nature, it takes several thousand years. With chemical processes, the whole thing can be accelerated by grinding basalt or carbonate and then spreading it on fields or in the oceans.
Technological processes for reducing CO2
CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) means something like capturing and storing carbon dioxide. The CO2 produced in industry is separated from the exhaust gases, then liquefied and stored. This process starts very early on, because it prevents production-related emissions from entering the atmosphere in the first place. Currently, however, the problem is in the underground storage facilities required for this. These are not only very expensive, but even forbidden in Germany.
DAC (Direct Air Capture) , i.e. extracting CO2 from the air: You can imagine these systems as huge fans that suck in air and filter the CO2 through chemical processes. They then blow out the remaining “clean” air. For the implementation of this approach, however, there is currently still a lack of climate-neutral energy to operate the systems.
Hope, Fear and the Overshooting Phenomenon
The technical approaches mentioned sound promising, but they all assume that the carbon dioxide can be stored somewhere. This would work, for example, with old natural gas and oil fields or special layers of rock into which the CO2 would have to be pumped. What some advocate is too uncertain for others. Neither the health risks of a possible release of the collected CO2 nor the risk of contaminated groundwater has been clarified so far. In addition, there are currently no monitoring techniques for the underground storage facilities that could detect possible damage. In the case of stronger eruptions, gas could escape through leaks, which in turn would pose a danger to all living things. A pilot project has shown that there is no danger from CO2 stored underground, but many people's concerns are too great.
Another concern: the phenomenon of “overshooting”. Some fear that technological approaches to CO2 filtration will make companies put less effort into CO2 reduction measures. Sort of like: If I can filter it out again, I can happily continue pumping CO2 into the atmosphere without hesitation. We have already dealt with a similar problem in our blog article “Why we are saying goodbye to climate neutrality” .
Our approach: With reforestation against the climate crisis
We also start with the great hope of “afforestation”. To this end, we have been working with our reforestation partner Eden Reforestation Projects for several years . We not only want to act as CO2-saving as possible throughout our entire production, but also actively do something to combat climate change. Snack by snack, by planting trees we can protect forests and ecosystems, help local people and support biodiversity. Whether nucao chocolate bars or spreads , numove protein bars or fitness shakes - every product invests in reforestation and gives something back to our planet.
👉🏻 What do you think: What role will negative emissions play in future climate policy?
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