Offsets: Emerging Technology

The ClimateHound Team
May 29, 2023
2 min read
“If you pump a ton of carbon out of the ground, you will need to take a ton out of the air…I’m saying this is a war, and we need to use all the weapons at our disposal.”
– Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University

Longer wildfire seasons. Fiercer storms. Disintegrating icebergs. Growing pest populations. Climate change can make our planet feel like a battlefield, but science offers hope for the future. Just as your team is working to innovate, researchers in labs around the world are seeking new ways to undo our society’s collective impact on the climate. ClimateHound and its offset partners are exploring these promising technologies: 

Anaerobic digestion projects use bacteria that thrive in the absence of oxygen to break down organic waste. This process has been used successfully at wastewater treatment facilities to process sewage, and now some of these facilities are also accepting food waste that would otherwise end up in landfills, where its uncontrolled decomposition would increase the amount of methane in the atmosphere. This greenhouse gas has a global warming potential that’s 30 times greater than that of CO2 over a hundred-year period. When food waste is instead processed with anaerobic digesters in a setting equipped with the right technology, methane can be captured and converted to electric power and heat, lessening the demand for fossil fuels. The same methane capture process can be applied to agricultural byproducts, like manure, that also contribute to methane in the atmosphere if they break down in an uncontrolled setting. Some of these facilities are even taking food waste or spent grains and processing them into fertilizer or livestock feed, which offsets the need for chemical fertilizers and additional agricultural production. 

Direct air carbon capture and storage may sound like science fiction – and the idea of sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and keeping it safely underground was originally met with skepticism and scrutiny – but the technology is real. The newest iterations hold tremendous potential for reversing the impact of emissions, and many experts now envision them as a key component of any holistic plan to address climate change. Liquid systems pass air through chemical solutions to extract the CO2 and then return the remaining components to the atmosphere. Solid technology uses filters that bind with the CO2, and those filters can later be heated to release the gas for storage or use. The latter comes with its own challenges, but researchers are working rapidly to make direct air carbon capture viable on a larger scale, and big players like United Airlines and Shopify are committing offset funds in this space.

These are just two of the emerging technologies that offsets can fund. Over time, as researchers move forward on every front, new initiatives will tap our evolving understanding of how to manage and mitigate global warming, and we’ll be investigating and evaluating them on behalf of our clients so your commitment to climate neutrality will have the greatest impact.

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