The concrete that helps the climate

If you walk between the towering buildings of London’s famous Brutalist compounds, everywhere you look you’ll see the gray, pockmarked concrete facade. Even the city’s most modern skyscrapers hide a spine made of something less glamorous behind their glossy exteriors – more of the same old concrete.

From this urban concrete jungle to the vast expanses of the world’s coastline lined with concreteconcrete is probably the most suitable material defines the Anthropocene. And we use more almost every year. Soon there will be be so concrete in the world that it will trump all living matter.

The problems that accompany our extraordinary dependence on this material are many and varied. Pristine expanses of concrete devoid of vegetation create deserts of biodiversity. Concrete is also waterproof, making it an excellent building material, but can lead to flooding in urban areas.

One of the biggest challenges of concrete is the extent of its impact on the climate: approx. 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cement, the component of concrete that acts as a binder to glue sand and stones together, is responsible for most of concrete’s carbon emissions.

But what if we could turn those vast gray swathes of building materials into something that actually helps the climate? Concrete that does not emit carbon, or even absorbs it, is a crucial step on the way to creating sustainable concrete.

Join me in the first episode of Future Planet’s new video series, New Directions, where we explore what it takes to turn concrete from a major carbon source into a carbon sink.

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