There are a lot of ideas out there about what we can do to help out our dying planet. A lot of them involve doing your part as a citizen to be mindful about the things you buy and the way you dispose of them. While that’s all well and good, with tonnes of carbon spouting into the atmosphere from factories around the world, recycling your pop cans might not actually be enough.
That’s where climate scientists come in. They work tirelessly to come up with ways to reduce carbon emissions and remove the atmospheric carbon that’s already melting ice caps and creating killer storms. It’s admirable work, but here’s the thing: science doesn’t run the world, money does. Sad, but true.
Big companies just don’t want to drop the cash it’s going to take to make their entire operations more environmentally friendly. What is going to finally entice these guys to make a change? Will they finally listen when the rising sea level reaches their corporate offices on the 30th floor?
Well, there might be something that will appeal to their pocket book enough to get them to go green – going blue. Blue carbon, that is. Allow us to explain.
What is Blue Carbon?
“Blue carbon” refers to the carbon stored in “coastal and marine ecosystems.” Those ecosystems include mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses and are found on every continent (except Antarctica).
Those ocean and coastal habitats circulate 83 per cent of the world’s carbon and have the ability to store an insane amount of it. It’s like when trees pull CO2 out of the atmosphere to perform photosynthesis, except these underwater plants do it to the extreme. Since the goal of a lot of climate research is to extract the carbon already floating out in the atmosphere, blue carbon areas can be the key to that.
What are we doing about it?
The Blue Carbon Initiative is working to restore, protect and grow the coastal areas that house blue carbon and keep it locked away from the atmosphere. When these ecosystems are damaged, they release that carbon and contribute to the problem rather than to the solution.
But like in the deforestation debate, how do you make corporations care about taking care of the environment? You speak their language.
Speaking the language of business
Governments have made big commitments to reduce carbon emissions from their countries over the coming decades. One measure Canada has put in place is charging businesses $50 for every tonne of CO2 they emit by the year 2022. That sounds like a small amount of money for a huge amount of carbon, but if a factory emits 1,000 tonnes of carbon, that’s $50,000 in fees. Businesses don’t like losing tens of thousands of dollars on things that used to be free.
On the flip side, companies that capture carbon will earn credits of $50 for every tonne of CO2 they capture. These carbon-capturing companies can also sell those credits to the businesses that are emitting carbon for a profit.
Enter blue carbon. Companies and organizations can accumulate carbon – and by extension, credits – by working to restore the ocean’s carbon sink, then sell those credits to the carbon-emitting companies. Even better, communities can get private funding from those businesses to restore ecosystems in exchange for those carbon credits. That turns into a win-win-win as the delicate ocean ecosystems – which are home to animals and other wildlife and work to prevent coastal erosion – are restored and maintained.
Sounds like a solution that works for everyone. The catch is: companies might use this credit scheme as a way to get out of lowering their carbon emissions. Since CO2 has been seeping unregulated into the atmosphere for so long, reaching a zero-sum isn’t going to reverse the damage already done. We need to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than we’re putting in to truly reverse climate change.
It sounds a little impossible, but we can dream, right?