What's Carbon Removal?

April 22, 2020

How does carbon removal actually work?

Carbon removal--also known as carbon sequestration--comes in many forms. One of the most common forms of carbon removal is happening right now, probably within a short walk of wherever you are: trees.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and emit oxygen, permanently removing  carbon molecules from the air.

Planting trees is a low cost and effective way to remove carbon, but it takes a lot of time and manpower. Unfortunately, for every tree you plant there are hundreds more being destroyed by agribusiness as they clear land for huge factory farms. Although planting trees is something we need to be doing, that alone won't reverse climate change.

Thankfully, there are plenty of more promising, large-scale ways to remove carbon and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Regenerative Agriculture

For thousands of years, farmers relied on the health and nutrients naturally found in soil to grow the crop they planted.

At some point, fertilizers were invented and soil began to be treated as the dirt that holds plants in place rather than the source of the plants’ nutrition.

This shift in practices has led to soil erosion and the loss of microorganisms that make up healthy, nutritious soil. As the soil erodes, farmers must further their reliance on fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides in hopes of maintaining consistent crop yields. 

The microorganisms lost in this process are carbon based, like all life. Micro may mean small, but don't let that fool you. Add the trillions of tiny organisms underground together and they vastly outweigh the sum of all humanity.

By switching to more sustainable farming practices--such as using cover crops in the winter, tilling less, and rotating crops every year--we can regenerate the life in the soil and effectively transfer massive amounts of carbon from the air back into the soil where it belongs.

Direct Air Capture

Another form of carbon removal uses direct air capture (DAC) technology to draw air through fans and filters that absorb carbon and other greenhouse gases. The absorbed carbon can then be further contained by two different pathways.

Pathway One: the carbon is safely reused in various forms, such as by mixing it with hydrogen to create a net-neutral, liquid fuel or by trapping it within other materials, like plastics, concrete, etc.

Pathway Two: the carbon is buried deep within the Earth and sequestered permanently, thereby becoming net-negative. Unfortunately, this path comes with its hurdles. Carbon sequestration does not create a financial incentive, so it’s a much less popular option for businesses to become involved in. It's also a fairly expensive way to remove carbon, and scaling this technology up will require significantly more capital, as well as infrastructure. However, despite the current limitations, we need every tool at our disposal to reverse climate change! Right now, carbon sequestration relies on either government funding or the volunteer market in the form of companies like ours, Goodbye Carbon.

Carbon removal & sequestration projects
around the world are in need of funding to make progress. If you want to make an impact on climate change, help us fund those projects. If you have a carbon removal project you would like us to consider funding, please email info@goodbyecarbon.org