When biologist Carlos Duarte and architect William McDonough talk about the circular economy of carbon, what they pursue is that we learn to properly manage the riches of the planet and run away from bankruptcy … climate change.
It is not the first time I sit in front of Carlos Duarte. This marine ecologist, specializing in the study of climate change, is the holder of the Research Chair in Ecology of the Red Sea at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, passionate about the oceans and is about to breathe with gills. And every time I interview it is different, I learn something new and maintain the same coherence. Like the sea.
“It is a mistake to say that the oceans provide one of every two oxygen molecules we breathe – Duarte is launched – it does not have a scientific basis. The oceans and the earth move in a closed circle, like that of the lungs, which take oxygen and release CO2. The oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make photosynthesis and the earth as well. Thus, the system is in a zero sum balance. We and the entire biology of the planet are part of this breathing system. We are also the lung of the planet … for our lungs ».
Perfect, we are part of the planet. It is clear, but how do we link the circular carbon economy with the sea, which is the project in common with McDonough? "If 80% of the world's population lives in cities and 80% of large cities are in the ocean or in large bodies of water, obviously it is all one: we are seafarers," explains Duarte. And to solve this we have to change the entire environment in which we operate. We need to restore the abundance that we have depleted in the seas and on earth and, in part, stop differentiating between the two. We have lost 50% of the forests of both land and ocean. We need to rebuild the biological abundance of the oceans. Whales, for example, fulfill a function similar to that of elephants on land, which keep the biological cycles running. The advantage is that in the oceans it will be easier, because the loss is less. Even in terms of species, there are only about 15 documented extinctions, although many hundreds on earth.
So what can ordinary citizens do in this economy? What is the strategy? "We need to double the abundance of life in the oceans – Duarte adds – from mangroves to marshes to save our forests, seabirds, whales … We need to double the abundance of life we exhaust. We have to be clear that we cannot escape from this cycle and that, as part of it, we must embed ourselves in it. Our own processes must be inspired by how nature works ». McDonough mentioned that the technologies needed to carry out the circular carbon economy exist … what are they and why have we not used them before? “There are already carbon capture technologies – Duarte points out – and many new technologies used to increase the efficiency of energy systems, but they have not been implemented for the price. And this is a problem because if they are not implemented, they never benefit from the learning curve, they will not be more efficient and cheaper. The price of solar panels has fallen because it has been tested with them. Many CO2 capture devices already work in buildings and have been shown to improve the air quality and life of their inhabitants. Now there is a need for greater implementation to capture CO2 on a large scale and also in lower concentrations, for example in homes. When it begins to be implemented – it continues – its price will decrease, but also the health, infrastructure expenses, and that will generate wealth in other sectors … ». The circular economy again.