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Can The Technology Of Capturing And Storing Carbon Be Our Answer To Climate Change?

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

Over the years, we have continued to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and now we realise that it’s time to extract it back. It’s like the famous L.M. Montgomery quote, which goes like:

‘Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?’

Yes, we need to come up with some form of ‘carbon-negative technology/solutions’, which may help us turn the direction of the current pathway. However, the idea seems nor pragmatic nor realistic, since the technology doesn’t exist for activities such as farming, flying, cement production and steel-making, which are branded as ‘necessary evil’ and inject carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Well, to be frank, the technology already exists, and it is we who never looked at the it seriously. We might not be able to reach a freezing zone where we are able to extract all the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but we can strive to achieve a zero-carbon emission rate by planting trees.

A new phrase, referred to as the bioenergy carbon capture and storage, deems to plant trees and extract as much atmospheric carbon dioxide as possible, post which it can be burned to generate electricity and store the carbon released. However, the concept is still in the ideation stage and needs to be tested on a scaled-up prototype to measure its efficacy.

The bioenergy capture and storage technology is a correction to the mistakes we have made, not a process of manipulation to sustain our errors.

Concerns With Getting Approval For Bioenergy Storage

According to a report, even if the concept is scaled up, several concerns can be raised against it. The proposal needs a vast amount of land, which might take the aid of the arctic zones. The usage of the arctic zone infers that we shall possibly be removing a layer of sunlight-reflecting snow, therefore influencing the Sun’s heating on the Earth’s surface, especially in the polar regions.

Moreover, the implementation of a monoculture of trees over a vast area can deteriorate the wildlife nearby. Hence, the process needs a superior optimisation of biodiversity and carbon removal, and the environmental management system needs to be completely operational.

Several pieces of research claim that wetland restoration may be another successful method to help extract and store carbon. The carbon is stored underwater and remains locked in the form of peat when a vegetation sinks. When these areas are converted to farmland, the dead vegetation decomposes and liberates a substantial amount of carbon into the environment.

Therefore, helping restore this dilapidated vegetation by re-wetting these lands may allow us to extract carbon from the atmosphere. The chart below gives an estimate of the amount of carbon dioxide we can remove from the atmosphere by employing various burgeoning scientific technologies.

Process Minimum amount of Carbon captured ( In gigatonnes per year) Maximum amount of Carbon captured ( In gigatonnes per year)
Biochar 0.5 2
Afforestation 0.5 3.5
Enhanced Weathering 2 4
Carbon Soil Sequestration NA 5
Direct Air capture 0.5 5
Bioenergy carbon capture and storage 0.5 5

Other Methods To Capture Carbon From The Atmosphere

Soil managing, popularly termed as ‘Carbon Soil Sequestration,’ is also an option that aims to modify the soils in a way so that they encapsulate the maximum amount of carbon. Moreover, heating a plant in the absence of oxygen yields biochar, which not only traps the carbon, but also helps in providing nutrients to the plants. It may take several hundred years for these biochars to break down and release carbon dioxide, thereby providing a convenient solution to trap carbon dioxide.

The emergence of technologies that trap carbon directly from the environment revolutionised the science of carbon sequestration. The plan neither aims to use vast plots of lands nor water supply, but is still able to capture carbon directly from the atmosphere and trap it underground (just like plastics).

However, initial data suggests that the process requires a considerable amount of energy. Therefore, the only way to harmonise the process as eco-friendly is by using renewable sources of energy. Dr Fuss’s study estimates (ideally) that with renewable sources of energy, the direct capturing method could remove almost five gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, with negligible impact on the environment.

Thus, to address the scaling of the process, the idea of bioenergy carbon capture and storage emerged, which may be implemented to drive the steering of the current carbon-negative technology. However, with all these emerging technologies, I want to tell that these methodologies do not mean we are allowed to pump more carbon dioxide recklessly into the atmosphere if we’re extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The technology is a correction to the mistakes we have made, not a process of manipulation to sustain our errors.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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