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Carbon Sequestration

Our planet is getting warmer because of too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air, mostly from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. To solve this, scientists came up with a plan called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

 CCS is a technology that captures CO2, the main culprit causing global warming, and then stores it underground where it can't harm the planet.

  1. How does it work? It's like a vacuum cleaner for CO2. We use special machines to grab CO2 from places like power plants or even directly from the air. Once we catch it, we don't let it escape; instead, we bury it safely underground.

  2. Why do we do this? Burning fossil fuels releases a lot of CO2 into the air. If we keep doing that, the Earth gets too warm. So, we use CCS to stop some of that CO2 from reaching the sky and causing trouble.

  3. Where do we store it? We have two types of storage places:

    • Natural Sinks: These are like nature's storage rooms—oceans, forests, and soil. They naturally absorb and store carbon.
    • Artificial Sinks: These are places we've set up, like empty oil fields or mines that can't be used anymore. We use them to lock away the captured CO2.
       

Even before we used CCS to help the planet, industries like oil and gas were already using it for a different reason—making it easier to get more oil and gas. But now, we're using it to save the environment.

   The three main steps of carbon capture and storage (CCS):


  1. Trapping and Separating CO2: First, we use special machines to catch the CO2 from other gases. It's like sorting out different types of candies from a mixed bag. We want to grab the CO2, which is causing trouble, and keep it separate.
  2. Transporting Captured CO2: Once we've caught the CO2, we need to take it to a safe place where it won't harm the air. It's like delivering a package to a specific location. We use pipes or other means to transport the captured CO2 to a storage spot.
  3. Storing CO2 Away from the Atmosphere: The final step is like finding a secure hiding place for something important. We take the captured CO2 and store it far away from the air. This storage location can be deep underground or even in the depths of the ocean, ensuring the CO2 is kept away from the atmosphere where it could cause problems.


Ways to Tackle Carbon: Understanding the Options

Scientists are exploring different ways to deal with too much carbon, and they fall into three main categories:

  1. Ocean Storage: This involves putting carbon directly into the oceans. It's like making the oceans a big sponge for carbon by either injecting it or adding nutrients. The goal is to help the oceans absorb and hold onto more carbon.

  2. Underground Storage: Think of the ground beneath us as a giant storage room. Certain natural spaces underground, like rocks, can hold onto carbon dioxide for a really long time. It's like locking away carbon in a secure, hidden vault.

  3. Land Storage: This approach focuses on working with the land. Natural storage areas, like soil and plants, can be improved. We can boost how much carbon they capture through processes like photosynthesis, slow down the breakdown of organic matter, and change how we use the land. It's like making our natural storage areas for carbon even better.

Choosing the Best Option: Out of these methods, putting carbon underground seems to be the most practical for dealing with too much carbon in the short term. It's like picking the most effective way to handle the excess carbon right now.

Geologic Sequestration Trapping Mechanisms

  1. Hydrodynamic Trapping: This mechanism involves the confinement of carbon dioxide in a gaseous state beneath a low-permeability cap rock. Analogous to the storage of natural gas in reservoirs, this trapping method relies on the impermeability of the cap rock to contain the carbon dioxide.
  2. Solubility Trapping: Solubility trapping entails the dissolution of carbon dioxide into a liquid medium, such as water or oil. By dissolving the carbon dioxide in these substances, the likelihood of its release is reduced, providing an additional means of containment.
  3. Mineral Carbonation: In mineral carbonation, carbon dioxide undergoes a chemical reaction with minerals, fluids, and organic matter within a geologic formation. This results in the formation of stable compounds, predominantly calcium, iron, and magnesium carbonates, contributing to the secure sequestration of carbon dioxide.
  4. Combined Trapping: The most effective approach often involves a synergistic combination of hydrodynamic trapping and solubility trapping. This dual mechanism offers a comprehensive solution, employing both the impermeability of cap rocks and the solubility of carbon dioxide in liquids to ensure robust subsurface storage.

Carbon Sink

Green and blue carbon play a crucial role in absorbing and storing greenhouse gases, contrasting with black and brown carbon that contributes to them.

  1. Green Carbon:
    • Green carbon, accumulated through photosynthesis and stored in plants and soil, is integral to the global carbon cycle.
    •  Unlike many plants and crops that release carbon seasonally, forests store carbon over decades. Measures like afforestation and reforestation can enhance biological carbon sequestration.
  2. Blue Carbon: 
    • Blue Carbon, found in coastal, aquatic, and marine environments, is stored by specific vegetation, marine organisms, and sediments. 
    • Coastal ecosystems, such as tidal marshes, mangroves, and seagrasses, efficiently remove and store carbon, surpassing even large tropical forests.
    •  These ecosystems store significant carbon, up to five times more than many forests, and are present on every continent except Antarctica.

Why is the Blue Carbon Ecosystem Important?

  •  Blue Carbon Ecosystems play a crucial role in combating climate change.
  • These coastal environments, including mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrasses, act as nature's carbon storage by absorbing and holding onto carbon dioxide.
  •  Preventing the destruction of these ecosystems and working to restore them is vital in the fight against climate change.

Unfortunately, these coastal ecosystems are disappearing rapidly, posing a threat to the planet. When lost, they not only stop absorbing carbon dioxide but also release stored carbon back into the atmosphere. This released carbon contributes to climate change, with effects that can last for centuries.

To address this issue, there's the Blue Carbon Initiative. It's a global program with a coordinated plan to protect and restore these coastal marine ecosystems. 

Blue Carbon Initiative


The Blue Carbon Initiative is a unique program, the first of its kind, with a worldwide plan to tackle climate change. It focuses on protecting and restoring coastal areas in the ocean, making it a big effort globally. The main goal is to use these natural places as a way to reduce the impact of climate change.

International Cooperation

Conservation International (CI), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO are working together with governments, research institutions, non-governmental and international organizations, and communities worldwide to:

  1. Develop Plans: Create ways to manage, provide financial support, and make policies to protect and restore coastal Blue Carbon ecosystems.

  2. Engage Governments: Talk to local, national, and international governments to ensure their policies and rules support the conservation, management, and funding of coastal Blue Carbon.

  3. Carbon Accounting: Figure out ways to accurately measure the carbon in coastal areas.

  4. Incentive Mechanisms: Come up with ways, like paying for carbon projects, to encourage the protection of Blue Carbon.

  5. Global Projects: Start projects all around the world to show that managing and protecting coastal Blue Carbon can work.

  6. Support Research: Help scientists study and understand the role and importance of coastal Blue Carbon ecosystems in fighting climate change.


Carbon Credit

A carbon credit is like a certificate that allows a person or company to emit a certain amount of carbon or carbon dioxide into the environment. One carbon credit typically represents the right to release one ton of carbon or its equivalent gases.

  1. How to Earn a Carbon Credit: If a company or organization produces one ton less of carbon or carbon dioxide than what's normally allowed for its operations, it earns a carbon credit. Essentially, it's a reward for being more environmentally friendly.
  2. Why is it Helpful? 
    • Countries that agreed to the Kyoto Protocol set rules for companies to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. 
    • If a company can't meet these limits on its own, it has two options. It can either use new technology to reduce emissions or work with developing nations, helping them use eco-friendly technology. In return, the company gets credits, allowing it to emit a certain amount of gases at home.
    •  However, only a part of these credits earned in a developing country can be used in the company's home country.
  3. Who's Involved?
    • Countries like India and China are expected to sell a lot of carbon credits, with Europe being a major buyer. 
    • In the global market, carbon credit trading is a big deal, estimated at $5 billion, with India contributing around $1 billion.
    •  China dominates this market, controlling about 70% of it. Interestingly, carbon is now being traded, like any other commodity, on India’s Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX), making it the first exchange in Asia to do so.

Carbon Offsetting 

Carbon offsets are like credits that you can buy to compensate for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in one place, such as using wind farms to generate renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

  1. How Does it Work?
    • These offsets are measured and sold in units called metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)
    • If you buy one tonne of carbon offsets, it means there's one less tonne of carbon dioxide in the air compared to what would have been there otherwise.
  2. Why is it Helpful?
    • Carbon offsetting is a quick way for businesses to make significant cuts in their emissions. 
    • It also often brings additional benefits to the project site, like creating jobs, community development programs, and providing training and education.
  3. What Makes a Carbon Offset Credible?  For a carbon offset to be trustworthy, it must meet certain quality criteria. This includes proving that the emission reduction wouldn't have happened without the financial support (additional), ensuring it won't be counted twice (retired from the market), and addressing concerns like permanence (it delivers the stated reductions) and leakage (reducing emissions in one area doesn't lead to an increase elsewhere).

Example: Let's say a business, Business A1, can't immediately reduce 100 tonnes of its CO2 emissions. There's a project somewhere else that could easily save 100 tonnes, like a community in India switching from carbon-intensive kerosene to solar panels, but they need money for it. By purchasing carbon offsets, Business A1 provides the financial support to get solar panels, reducing 100 tonnes of CO2 emissions globally. This also brings the extra benefit of helping advance technology in a developing market.

Carbon Tax 

Carbon tax is a fee based on the amount of carbon in fuels, such as coal. It's seen as an alternative to the 'cap and trade' method, aiming to reduce fossil fuel use and encourage the use of other energy sources.

How Does it Work? The goal of carbon tax is to gradually decrease fossil fuel use. It starts at a low amount and increases over time, giving industries and technology a chance to adapt. The idea is to make using fossil fuels more expensive, pushing people and businesses to choose cleaner energy options.

Why Might Carbon Tax be Better?

  1. Predictability: The tax helps predict energy prices, encouraging investments in energy efficiency and alternative fuels.
  2. Implementation: It can be put into effect quicker compared to the complex 'cap and trade' method.
  3. Understandable: Carbon tax is simpler to understand, making it more accepted by everyday people.
  4. Lack of Manipulation: It's less likely to be manipulated by special interest groups due to its simplicity.
  5. Rebates: Similar to other taxes, carbon tax could allow rebates to the public.

Geo-Engineering

Geoengineering is all about changing and cooling Earth's environment to counter the damage we've done and the resulting climate changes. Right now, it's only a theoretical concept.

Some ideas include using big umbrellas in the sky, putting mirrors in space, making the upper atmosphere whiter with special particles, painting rooftops to reflect sunlight, or even tossing iron filings into the ocean to help algae absorb carbon. These are all ways scientists are thinking about to make our planet more livable.

Geoengineering to Stop Global Warming 

  1. Copy a Volcano:
    • Scientists think mimicking a volcanic eruption could cool the planet. Volcanoes release sulfur dioxide, which forms droplets that scatter sunlight. 
    • By injecting sulfur into the atmosphere, they aim to create a similar cooling effect without the harmful side effects.
  2. Shoot Mirrors Into Space: Geoengineers plan to launch a giant mirror into space, strategically positioning it between Earth and the sun to deflect sunlight, potentially reversing the impacts of climate change.
  3. Seed the Sea with Iron:
    •  Iron could be the key to combating global warming. Adding iron to the ocean stimulates phytoplankton growth. 
    • These tiny organisms absorb carbon during photosynthesis, and when they die, the carbon sinks to the ocean floor, reducing atmospheric carbon.
  4. Whiten the Clouds with Wind-Powered Ships:
    • Similar to the reflective effect observed during volcanic eruptions, cloud tops possess the ability to reflect solar radiation.
    •  Researchers propose a straightforward solution: employ wind-powered ships to disperse seawater into the atmosphere. 
    • This process aims to enhance the reflective properties of clouds, resulting in increased sunlight reflection and potential cooling of the Earth. 
  5. Build Fake Trees: 
    • An "artificial tree" captures carbon from the air. Panels, like a filter, react with carbon dioxide to form a solid. 
    • After exposure to steam, the solid releases captured carbon as liquid CO2. This technology aims to pull carbon from the atmosphere for various uses, including greenhouse horticulture, dry ice production, and developing eco-friendly plastic and concrete products.

How Captured CO2 Can be Used: Sequestered CO2 can be commercially utilized in greenhouses for plant photosynthesis, dry ice production, and for creating innovative plastic and concrete products. This helps recycle captured carbon and potentially reduces its impact on the environment.



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FAQs on Shankar IAS Summary: Mitigation Strategies - Famous Books for UPSC Exam (Summary & Tests)

1. What is carbon sequestration?
Ans. Carbon sequestration refers to the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change. This can be done through natural methods like afforestation and reforestation, or through technological processes such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
2. How does carbon sequestration help in combating climate change?
Ans. Carbon sequestration helps combat climate change by reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. As CO2 is a greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, capturing and storing it helps to mitigate its harmful effects and slow down the pace of climate change.
3. What is geo-engineering?
Ans. Geo-engineering refers to deliberate and large-scale interventions in the Earth's climate system to counteract global warming or mitigate its effects. It involves techniques such as solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal to manipulate the climate and reduce the impacts of climate change.
4. How does geo-engineering differ from carbon sequestration?
Ans. Geo-engineering and carbon sequestration are related but distinct concepts. While carbon sequestration focuses on capturing and storing CO2 to reduce its concentration in the atmosphere, geo-engineering encompasses a broader range of techniques aimed at intentionally altering the Earth's climate system. Geo-engineering includes not only carbon sequestration but also other interventions like solar radiation management.
5. What are the potential risks and challenges associated with carbon sequestration and geo-engineering?
Ans. Some potential risks and challenges associated with carbon sequestration and geo-engineering include the high costs of implementation, uncertain long-term effectiveness, and potential environmental impacts. There are concerns about the leakage of stored CO2, the displacement of communities due to land requirements for sequestration projects, and the unintended consequences of manipulating the Earth's climate system through geo-engineering. Proper monitoring, regulation, and careful implementation are necessary to address these risks and challenges.
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