Washington failed to pass carbon legislation—again. It’s time to focus on carbon removal.
It’s 2018, and for the second election in a row, advocates for Washington state placing a tax/fee on carbon emissions are disappointed with the results. And yet, our ever-growing carbon emissions are a dangerous problem, and climate change continues to grow as a threat. So now what?
Climate change is a simple arithmetic problem: there are too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And there are only two ways to deal with that problem:
- Prevent existing sources of greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide from coal, oil, and natural gas, carbon in soils, etc.) that are stored in the earth from being released into the atmosphere
- Actively remove CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them somewhere—in soils, in rocks, in trees, or in manufactured products.
I-1631 was an attempt to provide funding for both 1 and 2 by collecting fees from energy emitters and then redistributing that money towards projects that both avoid new emissions and sequester past emissions. There was much disagreement about whether those fees would be passed on to consumers, whether the fee was raising enough money, and whether the board that distributed the funds would do so effectively.
My greatest sadness with 1631 was that at no point did any group supporting or opposing it ever actually estimate how many metric tons (tonnes) of CO2 would have been avoided if it were to pass. Both proponents and opponents of it focused heavily on how much money would be raised, but public conversation lost sight of the real goal: decrease the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
There is a much simpler and far less expensive approach to decreasing greenhouse gases available to us right now, and that is carbon removal.
Carbon removal is the concept of drawing down CO2 through any number of different ecological or industrial means. Regenerative agriculture, planting trees, growing kelp, restoring wetlands, and mineralization can all pull CO2 out of the air and store it in reserves in the earth. Direct air capture, carbon-negative construction materials, and as-yet-undiscovered methods can use industrial approaches for turning CO2 from a waste product into a new value stream.
The accounting and bookkeeping of “avoided carbon emissions” is quite challenging. If I build a wind farm instead of a natural gas plant, and I claim that because I avoided burning all that natural gas I should get some sort of credit for that behavior, there’s nothing to stop my neighbor from building a natural gas plant anyway. The carbon would still leave the earth and enter the atmosphere.
But accounting for carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere is much more straightforward. Measurement and verification is critical, and can be used to ensure that carbon that was once in the atmosphere is now safely stored in places like soils and rocks.
If one aspect of the climate science (and math) has recently become abundantly clear, it is that Washington and the rest of the world needs to place much heavier focus on extracting CO2 out of the atmosphere. This isn’t science fiction—these processes and technologies exist today and are in desperate need of more financing and more attention.
And there is a way for the world to create new economic value while at the same time removing carbon dioxide from the air.
Nori is the world’s first carbon removal marketplace
I’m the CEO and cofounder of a startup based in Seattle called Nori. (Nori is the Japanese word for seaweed, which, it turns out, is a very efficient way to remove carbon.)
Nori is building a marketplace that makes it incredibly simple for people and organizations who remove carbon dioxide to get paid for that service. Likewise, governments, businesses, individuals, conferences, trade groups, utilities, and more will find it incredibly easy to take the action on climate change to which they’re all already committing.
I-1631 would have raised billions of dollars over the next fifteen years. But it’s not clear exactly how many tonnes of CO2 the initiative would have avoided. On the other hand, Nori is actively selling “gift cards” that can be redeemed for certificates of carbon removed from the atmosphere.
Nori’s mission is to reverse climate change. Not decrease it, not make it less bad, but make the problem go completely away. We are actively working with farmers right now to measure and verify carbon dioxide being stored in their soils, and our marketplace should be ready for launch in early 2019.
If you’re disappointed about Washington not taking action on climate change, you have the power right now to do something about carbon in the atmosphere. Go to https://republic.co/nori and take action TODAY on fixing climate change.
And if you’re an accredited investor who wants to make money while solving the largest social problem in human history, contact us here.