Remove carbon–but do it equitably. Carbon removal mustn’t become a new frontier for injustice

BY FLETCHER HARPER AND CYNTHIA SCHARF

A direct air capture and storage facility, right, and a geothermal power plant, left, in Hellisheidi, Iceland, on Sept. 7, 2021.
ARNALDUR HALLDORSSON—BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

As preparations accelerate for the UN climate negotiations in Egypt, Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), a largely under-acknowledged issue with widespread, widely varying implications, must be addressed.

All current scientific projections for meeting the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals include this collection of approaches to removing past carbon pollution from the atmosphere at scale.

But here’s the kicker: Neither governments, science, nor industry have any realistic–let alone equitable–plan for removing carbon at the speed and huge scale neededAccording to the IPCC, a staggering 100 to 1000 billion tons of carbon dioxide must be removed over the next 80 years. At the upper end, this represents the weight of 125,000 fully-loaded U.S. aircraft carriers worth of carbon removed every year.

Every single CDR technique involves serious ethical issues that will affect communities worldwide. Currently, Western governments and financial interests are dominating the carbon removal debate. This must change. The public, including in the global South, needs to know more–and weigh in.

Read the rest of this op-ed in Fortune magazine, here.