Global warming is one of the most pressing environmental issues facing our planet today. Yet, the greenhouse gasses that have caused this crisis are so intertwined with the basic functions of modern society that it has become extremely complex and difficult to solve. To combat the crisis, many environmentalists have targeted visible, common contributors to greenhouse gas emissions — motor vehicles, factories, and large farms, for example — but they should also be looking somewhere else: construction.
Indeed, concrete — one of the most common construction materials — tends to be one of the most environmentally destructive, amplifying the already pronounced ecological footprint of the construction industry. Thankfully, one climate tech company, Carbon Limit, has created an exciting and innovative solution to the climate crisis.
“Concrete may be one of the most under-recognized contributors to global warming, but if you think about the concrete manufacturing process, it makes sense that it is responsible for such a substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Tim Sperry, CEO of Carbon Limit. “Cement is made in factories that produce large amounts of exhaust, then transported by vehicles and mixed by heavy machinery, all of which consume fossil fuels.”
Carbon Limit’s solution for the climate crisis
The team at Carbon Limit has developed an alternative to traditional cement that has the potential to combat global warming with its unique technology. The innovative technology acts as a sponge for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, absorbing it from the air and storing it in a solid form in the concrete, thereby lowering the overall carbon footprint of cities.
This innovative technology is built around decarbonization, the process by which carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is captured, reducing its overall levels in the atmosphere. Vegetation, such as trees, conducts this process naturally by sequestering the carbon dioxide they need for photosynthesis, but there are fewer trees in cities than ever before. While some have been suggesting additional green space as a potential path to decarbonization, Carbon Limit’s technology presents an innovative solution to combat the effects of urban development.
As cities continue to expand and grow, more trees that naturally sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere are removed. Planting a tree to replace a removed one is great, at least in theory, but it takes years — sometimes even decades — for trees to reach their full sequestration potential. With its carbon capture and storage qualities, Carbon Limit’s technology has the potential to prevent any reduction in CO2 sequestration that growing cities may cause.
How Carbon Limit’s technology stacks up against traditional concrete
Concrete has become such a dominant building material because of its durability and relatively inexpensive cost to produce cement. Concrete is weather-resistant and versatile, allowing it to be a flexible material for use in several different structures. However, this also means that concrete is not biodegradable. It can remain in landfills for thousands of years without breaking down, making the environmental catastrophe caused by concrete even more substantial than just global warming.
Much of the environmental destruction that has occurred within the atmosphere is permanent, meaning no technology can reverse it. However, Carbon Limit’s climate technology has the potential to mitigate these effects and prevent them from worsening.
In situations where limiting carbon dioxide emissions is not practical, for instance, carbon absorption and storage can be an effective solution to help avoid global warming. “For a period after greenhouse gasses are emitted, they can be sequestered without causing much damage to the atmosphere,” Sperry explains. “This is the window of opportunity for Carbon Limit.”
Several alternatives have been proposed to prevent the environmental impact of producing more cement, such as recycled concrete aggregate (RCA), but most are inefficient as they lack the qualities of durability that define traditional cement. Carbon Limit’s technology resembles traditional cement in terms of strength and performance. The difference is that it is made with different raw materials to give it the ability to decarbonize.
The climate crisis won’t be easy to solve. Nevertheless, by targeting unorthodox contributors to climate change, such as concrete, innovators have found an approach to global warming that might actually work.
“Greenhouse gas emissions aren’t something we can get rid of overnight — especially since they are produced by so many things we need to have in our daily lives,” Sperry laments. “However, decarbonization technology like Carbon Limit can reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to a much more environmentally responsible level.”