I actually believe this is the big risk of all Carbon removal and Carbon Storage technologies, and the one that always needs to be kept in mind: That they're used to justify the continuing use of fossil fuels.
(This isn't theoretical. This happened around 10 years in Germany when many new coal plants were built, and when people brought up the climate issue a very common answer was: "Don't worry, we already planned to enhance those plants with Carbon Capture and Storage technology later." Of course the latter never happened. At around the same time Norway had very similar discussions and I'm sure it happened elsewhere, too.)
Scrubbing coal powered plants takes away the whole point of the coal plant because you end up with negative energy.
Not saying that it's impossible or even impractical to store co2 underground. It just seems like a proposition that has a lot to prove.
I agree that CCS shouldn't be used as an excuse to continue fossile fuel use. However, as long as there are fossile power plants in existence (and we are necessarily stuck with those for a very long time), it makes infintely more sense to capture emissions at the source (the power plant) rather than spending energy capturing CO2 out of "thin air" later.
Moreover, there are a host of industries (steel, cement, chemicals) that would continue emitting large amounts of CO2 even if they switched 100% to renewable energy). To cut these emissions, there is no alternative to capturing the CO2 and storing it.
Looking at the figures, I would dare to claim that people against the use of CCS are not really serious about tackling climate change. (And by the way, the reason large-scale CCS has not yet happened in Europe is to a large part public resistance - I would assume that's a big part of the reason for those power plants in Germany too).
I favor any approach that can be done now to make an improvement. We need to reduce, then eliminate atmospheric CO2 production and then get to reversing - removing it - ASAP.
It's up to us to make sure First Steps aren't seen as Only Steps - but that certainly doesn't mean we shouldn't take them.
Generation with CCS is not impossible, it's just .. uncompetitive with renewables.
Also "CO2-neutral coal power plants" is a scam. You'll always have emissions left. Digging up coal causes emissions (the coal is not alone, there's e.g. always methane coming up with it that you can't capture). No Carbon removal tech can remove 100% of Carbon from emissions.
(There was actually a lawsuite because Vattenfall called one of their CCS testing plants "carbon free". They lost.)
Also, I can't find figures easily but it still wouldn't be as clean as solar, nuclear or wind.
So, yes, aside from CO2, continued energy production using coal is an unsustainable strategy.
You missed the point. The problem in the grandparent post isn't with the first clause, it's not even with the feasibility of the second clause.
It's with the "if". The "if" won't happen in practice. So that makes the answer to your question "no".
Let me put it simply: we need to stop burning fossil fuels NOW (move to renewables) and also have less kids (1 or 2 per couple). Anyone with the means should use solar PV, wood heat, electric cars, and reduce air travel to once per year. This means you most likely need to change from what you grew up with and what you know and how you live. We all need to change, our economy needs to change, and we need to acknowledge that as soo as possible; the lives of outer children depend on it.
Part 1: Research landscape and synthesis: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aabf9b
Part 2: Costs, potentials and side effects: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aabf9f
Part 3: Innovation and upscaling: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aabff4
I just don't get it: there is no free lunch burning coal to make heat to make steam implies combustion which necessarily makes CO and CO2 and it's in gaseous form. It's diffuse. So making liquids or pumpable gas expends energy and making to flow over a reaction surface to make carbonate implies back pressure on the flue gases.. it's just hard work.
Fortunately there is a system to do this which dwarfs in scale pretty much any industry humans ever have and ever will come up with: photosynthesis. While 10 Gigatons of C is a lot, terrestrial biomass is ~600 Gigatons of C. The best strategy for reversing carbon emissions is letting the Earth soak it back up again.
We could change the steady state slightly by increasing biomass; but that would only offset the carbon added by the destruction of said biomass, and cannot scale beyond the available space (and all other natural limitations on how much life can be put in one spot).
If we did come up with a way for Earth to just "soak it back up again" that was based on seeding some type of organic and letting it work for us, I would be extremly concerned about a global cooling catastrophe. There is no natural stop point at the carbon concentrations we want, and if we overshoot the amount we pull out, we are in for a very bad time. (Not to mention the other environmental effects that the resource sink we introduce will have. I doubt carbon would be the only resource it hogs.)
 It did come close with the emergence of photosynthesis. At the time, photosynthesis was decidedly not carbon neutral, as there was no counter force to consume oxygen until the emergence of aerobic organisms. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event
We are over budget here - putting 1000 gigatons of C back is going to be tough. But putting a good chunk of that away is probably the result of something like: humanity stops eating meat and reduces its agricultural footprint, commits most of the earth to nature preserves.
> Biochar is charcoal used as a soil amendment. Biochar is a stable solid, rich in carbon, and can endure in soil for thousands of years. Like most charcoal, biochar is made from biomass via pyrolysis. Biochar is under investigation as an approach to carbon sequestration, as it has the potential to help mitigate climate change. It results in processes related to pyrogenic carbon capture and storage (PyCCS). Independently, biochar can increase soil fertility of acidic soils (low pH soils), increase agricultural productivity, and provide protection against some foliar and soil-borne diseases.
> Researchers have estimated that sustainable use of biocharring could reduce the global net emissions of carbon dioxide (CO
2), methane, and nitrous oxide by up to 1.8 Pg CO
2-C equivalent (CO
2-Ce) per year (12% of current anthropogenic CO
2-Ce emissions; 1 Pg=1 Gt), and total net emissions over the course of the next century by 130 Pg CO
2-Ce, without endangering food security, habitat, or soil conservation.
It feels like every other week I read about one approach which has the potential to save us from climate change, if scaled correctly. Suberin rich food crops. Autonomous ships that produce artificial clouds. Biochar. Painting things white. Olivine rock weathering. Greening the Sahara. I don't believe any of these solutions alone is going to save the planet, but surely doing several in concert would help
Which for everyone that doesn't know, this is why if even today we stopped net greenhouse production world wide the planet would still warm. Because there is biomass underneath the ice that will (is) be(ing) released as it melts.
Yes, plants eventually decompose and release the carbon, but every new plant buys us 10-100-1000 years until we have to deal with that carbon. The biggest problem now is finding land to reclaim with forest and preventing existing forest from being cut down (as pointed out in other comments, the mature trees store more carbon per area than new trees). In the end, our forests are competing against our agriculture and food supply (and growing population). Just like energy efficiency (home insulation and sealing) is the low hanging fruit of energy conservation, reducing the consumption and production of low-land-efficiency foods like meat is the easiest way to reduce agricultural footprint and make more available to carbon-sequestering trees.
Not really sure what you're referring to, if we're being practical. The only proposal I've seen that uses your strategy is seeding the oceans with iron oxide to cause algae blooms. I don't really know if that's truly feasible (or desirable) but it is the only one I've heard that is an honest attempt at Geo-engineering our way out of this mess.
Use wind, solar, and biomass powered generators to desalinate water and pipe it inland. Pick locations that would have local positive rainfall feedback.
Pump oxygen into deadzones caused by nutrient runoff encouraging algal blooms. Either harvest it or let it die and sink to the bottom of the sea.
It's so stupid that we have the technology and knowledge to save our species and civilisation but our imaginary number system won't let us.
> I especially like the idea of CO2 scrubbing for coal-fired power plants. Of course to cut carbon emissions it would be better to ban coal-fired power plants.
I don't like this idea at all. It shows that at the current rate of action, global warming handling is a tragedy. It's a life threatening issue for billions of us, yet nothing happens, only insignificant changes.
PS: sandwiching is not appropriate when the positives are not relevant to the topic. For example: the author writes well, and though he presents no real point, he is polite about it.
I assume you heard of the 1.5C target from the COP21. Depending on the estimations we already reached +1, and there is a lot of inertia in the whole system, so it's just not gonna happen. It's all a political "aim high, think later" thing.
Without doing anything about the climate itself, thepeak oil and the people aversion to coal pollution will probably slow down our carbon addiction by the end of the century. Estimates for this scenario are within 7-12C. More optimistic scientific reviews, that assume we would give a fuck about it, are in the 3-7C range. Note that there are more centuries to come.
Assume we reach a rather optimistic 4C global warming. This is a worldwide average, and you may know that oceans trap most of the heat, so the air above the oceans will not warm up as much. To compensate, it means that the air above land will be a couple degrees hotter, say 6C, and depending on how the winds will change, some place will get hotter than others (for instance currently the Arctic region is already 2C warmer than ours industrial levels). So even in an optimistic scenario today the average year round temperature in some place could get to +10C. If nothing is done, I'm not quite sure, but it's probably safe to say that it will be +20-30C in some areas. Maybe this kind of temperature delta can make you think of the kind of challenge the next generations would face. Vegetation (food) would die during heat waves, mass migrations, etc.
When ice caps melt, the earth's albedo changes, and it reflects less sunlight. That's one of the mechanisms behind the transitions from an ice age to a warm age. The Arctic is currently melting at unprecedented rates, which means that the warming is unlikely to stop unless drastic changes are done.
Global warming causes sea level rises, through dilatation due to heat, and melting of on-land ice (greenland, Antarctica). Current warming is enough to make sea levels rise by 1m. This is locked in (unstoppable).
Estimates vary but including future warming, it may rise by 2.4m. Bangladesh is the poster child for rising sea level dangers. It's not just about loss of coastal areas (40%), but also increased salinity in drinking water, less fertile lands. People will lose their houses and starve.
There's a lot more to global warming than this, and the literature is plenty. I invite you to discover it.
Global warming is as much of an existential risk to humans as nuclear war. The rapid changes are causing species extinction and, if it hasn't started already, will cause ecosystem collapse. We're still very bad at understanding things like complex food webs to see exactly what effects it will have
I think BECSS are difficult since it's still uncertain how the actual net carbon negativity changes when we change land to grow 'BECSS' crops/grasses. Also BECCS cost a land and water, something which will be a luxury when we are going from 7.5 billion to 10 billion people in 2050.
With DAC we can actually set an upper boundary of the total cost of the negative emissions, which will only go down due to technological improvements.
What I do agree on is that we need to stop using fossil fuels where possible. I don't think every sector will be ready in time (airplanes and boats for example). However we can make synthetic fuels using direct air capture which are almost carbon neutral (look at the super work David Keith is doing with Carbon Engineering: http://carbonengineering.com/ )
This is going to be the biggest challenge. It's going to be a struggle to maintain biodiversity and stop deforestation while also trying to feed 10 billion people , especially with the overfishing currently happening with just 7. We'll have more mouths to feed and less fish to do it with. The only way we can realistically achieve this is by cutting out livestock, increasing fish farming and lab grown meat and building lots and lots of vertical farms.
It has to be government mandated. And most of the carbon is by COMPANIES not individuals.
No, my strategy is to spread this message far and wide, and encourage others to do so too, until hopefully enough people are convinced and choose to do so. I kinda went overboard with the comments on this one article, but I was inspired.
Sometimes I wonder if turning carbon-piety into a religion (or vice versa) would be the way to go. After all, the way I see it, the defining characteristic of US conservatives, who generally oppose individual actions and government mandates to reduce carbon, is religiousness. "Forgive me father for I have flown in an airplane again this month."
Why not say "Great idea. Maybe once it gets enacted we can set the timeline even tighter." You shouldn't infight when you're in the 5% minority, you're just weakening your team.
A lot of the social movements of the 60’s were ultimately based on the fact that every young male at that time had a draft number, and so the political struggle was personal and very real. I’m not surprised that young people are starting to treat climate change in the same way. It’s different when it’s your life that’s on the line.
We needed to be taking urgent action on global warming 20 years ago. Now, we need to take even faster action and also try to invent scifi negative-emissions technology.
I feel very sorry for young people. We've failed them.
Anyone with an interest in science already knew about global warming in 1984. And politicians from both parties haven’t done jack about it ever since.
and here’s Sting from 1985:
How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toy?
There is no monopoly on common sense
On either side of the political fence.
We share the same biology, regardless of ideology.
Believe me when I say to you,
The Russians love their children too
Where did you live then? If you want to convince yourself this was actually a thing you can watch "threads". That was not remotely seen as some kind of remote science-fiction story back then.
The main fear back then was toxins of various kinds, from smog to nuclear to pesticides.
I agree with you that nuclear war was an earlier fear, 1960's.
Back then the concern was cleaning up the environment. CO2 was never mentioned. It was about air and water pollution, and garbage on land.
I’m constantly baffled at how everyone acts like nuclear war is a historical curiosity.
This is not to take away from climate change, which is also a major threat. It’s not either-or, we should fix both.
The reality is that current policies worldwide favor coal for many reasons - most of which boil down to self-preservation. If a switch in policy was enacted quickly, that chart would see a dramatic rise in alternative energy sources. The trick is enacting self-harming policies that limit economic prosperity while ensuring the other guy does the same. This is where international agreements come in, which some countries ahem simply ignore.
What is the ultimate solution? I don’t know, but it feels like we need a huge shift in political values that put climate as the one and only issue that matters before all else. This would require and educated public willing to put aside other policies that they may disagree with. Ultimately we are probably doomed because our individual self-preservation will trump our collective well being (however flawed this view may be given that we are all living on the same rock).
We’re working on carbon negative industrial hydrogen at Charm Industrial, and we’re hiring: https://www.charmindustrial.com/about
Cut down all grown trees and replace them by young ones. The houses act as carbon sinks. The young trees capture more co2 than the old trees. Easy.
Takes little technology, but does take up land. Probably we need all alternatives too, but this seems low hanging fruit to me.
So yes we need to plant more trees, but we also need to pursue other negative emission technologies such as ocean fertilization/ocean liming, soil carbon sequestration, direct air capture and enhanced weathering.
In all practicality though, I think sequoia and redwoods are more difficult to grow and have limited climate tolerances (an issue when the the climate is changing). I wonder if go fast-growing tropical trees such as albezias or others would be better. But we should also be looking for 3-4 ideal trees for each climate zone or better yet, trees adapted to several zones.
Annoyingly, people don’t follow such oversimplified economic models. (If we did, free market economics and communism would both be ‘right’).
Capitalism has advantages and disadvantages, and the same is true for communism. If, however, the variable you want to optimise for is carbon footprint, then clearly capitalism is the wrong tool for the job.
Also, models are a perfect representation of reality, but since we can't possibly capture all the data inherent in a system as large as our planet (or Solar System, or the Universe), it's pretty much all we have to make sense of the world.
Though yes, generally, biological carbon fixation is highly effective.