This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
More and more people have come to understand the urgency of the climate crisis in recent years, and Americans have elected a president in Joe Biden who has pledged to make addressing climate the centerpiece of his administration, but there is much debate about exactly how we should go about confronting our collective climate challenge.
In the run-up to Earth Day, Rolling Stone held a series of three debates, each focusing on a different contentious climate solution: solar geoengineering, carbon removal, and how quickly we can and should stop using natural gas.
The climate crisis is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which dumps billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. The CO2 traps heat, causing our atmosphere to warm up fast. So doesn’t it make sense to figure out a way to remove some of that CO2 from the atmosphere?
That’s the topic of this debate: carbon removal. Everyone knows that trees suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. But is it possible to build what amounts to artificial trees that basically accelerate that process, doing it on a massive scale that would rival the infrastructure of the oil-and-gas industry that exists today? This might sound outlandish, expensive, or impractical, but carbon removal is increasingly seen as a necessary technology to reach net zero CO2 emissions in the future.
What are the climate justice implications of carbon removal? Is it just another false promise pushed by the oil-and-gas industry that would allow them to continue pumping and burning fossil fuels for another few decades?
Joining Rolling Stone for this debate are Elizabeth Yeampierre and Julio Friedmann. Yeampierre is the executive director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization. She is an internationally recognized Puerto Rican attorney and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. You can follow her at Twitter @yeampierre.
Julio Friedmann is a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. During the Obama administration, he served as principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy at the Department of Energy, where he was responsible for DOE’s R&D program in advanced fossil energy systems, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and CO2 utilization. You can follow him on Twitter @CarbonWrangler.
Follow along with the Youtube comments on the carbon removal debate here.