The rising air pollution has made Carbon Dioxide a commodity and thus is emerging a whole new industry.
While governments and action groups are fighting hard against the rising menace of air pollution, there is a lucrative opportunity emerging for private players and corporations. The growing amounts of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere have enrichened the compound as a commodity. Furthermore, there is a growing number of businesses in the domain of capturing CO2.
Emerging industries are using carbon dioxide as a base ingredient for commercial products like fuels and construction materials.
As per a new study by researchers from UCLA, the University of Oxford and five other institutions, a whole new Carbon Dioxide-based global industry rapidly emerging amid our fight against Climate Change. Moreover, the prospects of such a new sector could prove vital to the global drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere.
The New Study – A New Global Carbon Dioxide Industry
Recently published in the academic journal Nature, the study around commercial opportunities in CO2 is the most comprehensive study to date. The researchers analyzed potential future opportunities and ways how corporates can use toxic gas and produce commercial products. The study also observed the business viability of 10 different industry processes by which carbon dioxide can be captured, thereby reducing the effects of climate change.
Carbon Dioxide can be used in making fuels, plastics, building materials, chemicals, forestry, and soil management. The methods evaluated procure carbon dioxide from waste gases as a by-product of burning fossil fuels and capturing CO2 in the atmosphere through industrial processes. The research also widened the scope of ways to capture carbon dioxide for industry uses by also observing methods to biologically capture via photosynthesis and how that impacts climate change.
How the future industry could reduce Air Pollution
Each of the methods of capture and usage in commercial products could utilize approximately 0.5 gigatonnes (1 billion tonnes or 1 trillion kilograms) of carbon dioxide per year on an average. This would help prevent CO2 from waste gases to escape into the atmosphere. If such an industry flourishes, it would also help use up over 10 gigatonnes (20 billion tonnes or 20 trillion kilograms) Carbon Dioxide that currently goes and settles in the atmosphere.
As per the research, the new methods to capture Carbon Dioxide could reduce the prices of processed to less than $100 per tonne of gas procurement. However, this cost will be heavily depended on the ‘potential scales and costs’ of carbon dioxide usage across different sectors which varies substantially.
Carbon Dioxide Utilization as part of the Solution to Climate Change
To ensure that the human race is able to endure and survive into the 2100s, we need to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius per year for the rest of the 21st century. The number also has consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. So, to achieve and sustain this number, globally humans need to remove around 100 to 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.
Instead, at the current rate, we are adding fossil fuel-driven carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere at 1% every year. In fact, in 2018, the atmospheric carbon dioxide content was highest ever recorded at 37 gigatonnes. Thus, stabilizing the levels of dangerous gas is crucial. Moreover, a global industry driven by the opportunity for profit could also enhance motivation.
As per Emily Carter, co-author of the paper and also a distinguished professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, “The analysis we presented makes clear that carbon dioxide utilization can be part of the solution to combat climate change, but only if those with the power to make decisions at every level of government and finance commit to changing policies and providing market incentives across multiple sectors.”
An alternative ‘better choice’ to the current global decarbonization initiative
There are opportunities for corporates and people globally to reap the benefits of carbon dioxide extraction and utilization across industries. For example, the usage of fuels made via carbon dioxide could be developed for use in sectors harder to decarbonize like the global aviation and shipping industries. Similarly, using carbon dioxide as raw material is more profitable than using conventional hydrocarbons in certain kinds of plastic production. It can ‘displace up to three times as much carbon dioxide as the process uses’. Consequently, this would make industrial plastic production an environmentally cleaner process.
In fact, the ‘promise of carbon dioxide utilization’ could act as an incentive to motivate corporations to displace fossil fuels.
Consequently, this demands that the policy-makers of the world create a friendlier business environment around decarbonization. Co-author Emily Carter suggests, “start by incentivizing the most obvious solutions — most of which already exist — that can act at the gigatonne scale in agriculture, forestry, and construction”. Furthermore, she continued, “At the same time, I would aggressively invest in R&D across academia, industry and government labs.”
The urgency is immense and we hardly have time left to make a change
There is a piling need to reduce the increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So, removing these gases is pivotal to achieving the global goal of net-zero carbon emissions. Greenhouse gas removal is crucial in stabilizing the climate and we haven’t done enough so far. Cameron Hepburn, one of the lead authors of the study, director of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, “We haven’t reduced our emissions fast enough, so now we also need to start pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Governments and corporations are moving on this, but not quickly enough.
However, while there is little time left, our current policy-making approach is falling inadequate. Therefore, new technologies need to be analyzed as a serious mitigation strategy for carbon dioxide pollution. Some of the new methods of CO2 extraction are also simpler and more practical policy-wise. However, a number of others fall short when evaluated as attractive business models in the current regulatory scenario.