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Carbon removal ‘is the biggest industry in the history of the world,’ Running Tide CEO says

·Assistant Editor
·4 min read

Public and private sector actors have been promoting the massive opportunity rooted in reversing climate change — albeit with dire consequences if the world overshoots its greenhouse gas budget.

An estimated 450 gigatons of carbon will need to be removed from the atmosphere in order to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the UN climate body's latest report.

“If we don't do that, ... there's no devastation in living memory can match this,” Marty Odlin, CEO of Running Tide, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “So we have to compare any environmental drawbacks of any specific solution against the sum total of what warming is going to do to our planet and ecosystems.”

Odlin added that "removing 450 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere... is the biggest industry in the history of the world. That's what needs to get built. Nothing has been built like this in living memory of anybody. This will be 150 years of the fossil fuel industry reversed and done in 20 years.”

Yahoo Finance and Yahoo News will be reporting from COP26, which is set to begin on October 31 and last until November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. Check out the coverage here.

Carbon removal is at 'the flat part of an exponential curve'

Under the pressure of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, carbon removal and ecosystem restoration “are necessary things to do, and they're going to be massive industries moving forward,” Odlin said. “They're just not optional.”

Indeed, major corporations are increasingly viewing climate change adaptation and mitigation as central to the long-term health of their business. Many companies have already set emissions targets, though only a fraction of those have clear roadmaps to decarbonization that are aligned with the Paris Agreement.

Running Tide, a Maine-based aquaculture startup, has gotten a boost from some of those big names, like Shopify, as well as from venture capital firms like Venrock.

“There seems to be this groundswell of support among large companies that are interested in offsetting carbon emissions and reaching their net-zero goals over the next 15 to 20 years,” Odlin said. “And they see that permanent carbon removal solutions are basically a critical part of their future climate strategies, and they're starting to support these emerging technologies in order to have a foot in the door, essentially, into these industries.”

For firms and nations to reach their net-zero emissions targets, the carbon removal solutions that are still early in their development will need to scale quickly. About 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide will need to be removed each year from the atmosphere through 2050 and 20 gigatons removed each year for the remainder of the century, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

“What technology is going to work to get us to the gigaton scale or the 10 gigaton scale? Too early to tell,” Odlin said. “I think these production ramps that we're talking about, everybody is just at the flat part of an exponential curve. And we're going to have to try all these different technologies to see where the bottlenecks emerge.”

A visitor checks out the kelp forest exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, U.S. May 14, 2021. Picture taken May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino
A visitor checks out the kelp forest exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, U.S. May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino

For its part, Running Tide is working on a “nature-based solution” to remove carbon from the atmosphere by growing kelp forests offshore and sinking them into the deep ocean. The type of seaweed absorbs carbon and then becomes ocean sediment, in the same process that created the oil now being burned.

“You know, kelp sinking into the deep ocean, macro, microalgae sinking into the deep ocean, that's where oil came from, right?” Odlin said, adding, “so what we're doing is accelerating it, nudging it forward.”

Having conducted tests on this solution's ability to remove carbon for 18 months, Odlin expressed confidence that “sinking kelp forests can get to megatons very quickly relative to other technologies.”

That said, scaling up Running Tide's operation depends on what the data says from their ongoing experiments. “We're certainly not going to jump ahead of science,” Odlin said.

Grace is an assistant editor for Yahoo Finance.

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