Repairing our Climate
Though scientists have been studying the topic for decades, the idea of actually repairing the climate often surprises people when they hear about it for the first time.
People usually hear of emissions reduction, which is avoiding making things worse. Repairing something is undoing past damage that has already happened, with the ultimate aim of turning the clock back on climate change.
As you can see from our picture above, our comfortable human-friendly world of the past is being ravaged by the effects of warming, such as floods and fires, making our planet less hospitable to human life than it was in the past. But we can also interpret it as a plan for our future: using climate repair to bring our climate back to the conditions that support human life.
The fundamental driver of climate change has been the emission of what are called “greenhouse gases” into the air: gases that trap heat in our atmosphere the way the glass of a greenhouse keeps it warm. So while reducing new emissions is how we can “stop new greenhouses from being built”, climate repair is “removing extra greenhouses that already exist”.
The primary greenhouse gas that everybody knows about is carbon dioxide (CO2). The number two villain on the list is methane (CH4). While there is two hundred times the amount of carbon dioxide in the air than methane, that small amount of extra methane is responsible for a third of the rise in temperature. So that is why we are starting with methane. Human activity has almost tripled the amount of methane in our air so our goal is to remove all that additional methane. We hope to remove about half of it by the end of the decade, and continue on at that rate until the amount in the air is back at the pre-industrial level, about 750 ppbv.
Unlike, say, repairing a broken bone, many climate repair activities are not one-time tasks. Even once methane levels have returned to a safe level, removal activity will need to continue to compensate for continued emission of methane, which cannot be completely eliminated.
In addition to us, there are numerous scientists and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) working on the science and safety of climate repair. A couple examples of important NGOs in this space are the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge and the Foundation for Climate Restoration. We are not affiliated with either organization, though our personnel do speak with people in both organizations frequently.