Some experts who study climate change – and even many activists who advocate a significant humanitarian response to global warming – may be too pessimistic to envision an ecological return to equilibrium.
Naysayers look at the damage already done to the Earth and often belittle any attempts to heal the world.
But on Tuesday, a new carbon removal effort was launched to fix the planet and push the environment back into a balanced and natural state by 2050.
The event on the first day of the 2019 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) – which features more climate attention than usual – highlighted the need for ambitious climate mitigation, adaptation, and carbon capture strategies.
And with the release of a report on how existing technologies can be used to “ensure the survival of humanity”, the Foundation for Climate Restoration is launching a campaign to reach pre-industrial pollution levels with financeable, scalable and permanent solutions.
“This is a landmark moment in advancing the global awareness and commitment to urgent and effective climate action on behalf of future generations,” said Peter Fiekowsky, the founder of the Foundation for Climate Restoration.
The initiative is cosponsored by environmental group Earth Day Network and community activists at the Future Coalition. Together with the main nonprofit organiser, these groups are calling the joint drive the Coalition for Climate Restoration – which aims to combine the energies of governments, civic groups and multilateral organisations with the resources of the private sector.
The coalition aims to “restore the climate to a safe, habitable, and healthy climate like we had 100 years ago.”
“This includes creating, supporting, and accelerating market-based solutions, policy adoption, public-private partnerships, and financing by 2030,” says the coalition’s mission statement.
Alexandra Pony, spokeswoman at the Forum for Climate Restoration, told Al Jazeera the group was “open and excited about more solutions” and is continuously looking for feasible methods to sequester carbon.
The group’s main aim is to “remove the trillion tonnes of excess CO2 from the atmosphere”, in addition to the restoration of Arctic ice, ocean life and native forests.
But the coalition insists that current commitments to limit the global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius “would still leave atmospheric CO2 at levels 50 percent higher than humans have ever experienced – presenting conditions humans are unlikely to survive long-term”.
Key to their plan for remedying this imbalance is commercially-viable carbon-sequestration projects that would help restore the level of CO2 to less than 300 parts per million.
To succeed, the plan would require the removal of 50 gigatonnes every year over the next 20 years. Though that is a gargantuan undertaking, technology may enable speedy progress.
“We have the tools and resources available to undo the damage we have done to this planet,” said Rick Parnell, CEO of the Foundation for Climate Restoration, who added that the “governance of technologies and methods is also necessary to move forward”.
Climate restoration is an emerging field that builds upon the premise that the climate is currently in crisis and that societies must declare an emergency in order to generate support and resources for mass mobilisation to address the scope of the problem.
To reverse the catastrophic effects of too much CO2 in the atmosphere, there are a number of innovative ways that could move the needle.
One idea cited by the group is the mineralisation of CO2 captured from the air to create usable economically usable cement. BluePlanet is a commercial enterprise that sells such a product as a market-ready solution for “economically sustainable carbon capture”.
Another concept, pioneered by Ice911, would protect sea ice with silica microbeads that reflect the sun’s rays – preventing the ice from melting, and in turn, slowing the heating of the ocean.