The challenge

In a well-balanced ecosystem carbon capture and release, via the photosynthesis of plants, algae, and cyanobacteria, via the sea-air gas exchange, and via carbon exchanges related to biological and geological processes, are in equilibrium.

Smoke rising from chimney

Since the beginning of the industrial age (in the 1850s), however, this equilibrium has been perturbed, in particular by increasing carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel. This has resulted in an excess of CO2 in the atmosphere, which has reduced the capacity of the natural carbon sinks of land and ocean. The extra CO2 enhances the greenhouse effect. More heat is trapped in the atmosphere, causing the planet to become warmer than it would be otherwise.

Currently, more than 80% of the energy produced globally each year is generated through fossil fuel combustion, resulting in more than 37 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. As a result, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have risen from less than 300 parts per million (ppm) to more than 400 ppm over the last 100 years, contributing substantially to global warming and climate change.

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