We're now offered a 1001st option.
We will refuse this option too. Because the problem isn't that we can't stop climate change, it's that we don't want to.
That's not a science, engineering, technology problem. It's a human nature, leadership problem.
This is why no one is considering Geo Engineering.
Remember, if you don't want to solve a problem, the cost of solving it is always too high, even if the cost is only 1USD...
(Not to be flippant, but the relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/349/ describes this well: sometimes things get a lot worse when an engineer tinkers with them.)
That doesn't mean we should rely on this entirely and not attempt to reduce emissions. But we're also past the point where we can rely on emission reductions alone.
There might be more public support in a moon-shot big engineering project, and fighting the small-government types, than say, reducing emissions for factories and fighting the relevant lobby.
In the long term, we're going to need net negative emissions anyway. CO2 is already too high and is still rapidly increasing.
This is an absurdly reductive take.
This has been judged far to expensive.
The world's going to hell fast. If past is prologue, the Rich will pay for their parts of the world being nice and habitable. Everyone else will be left to suffer.
Get ready to see domed city concepts getting more serious and more cities like Vegas with connected tunnels and shafts between buildings to avoid going outdoors for any reason...
Even if we stopped 100% of emissions today, we’ll still have continued warming from the baked in effects of co2 and from continued methane leaks from the earth as it warms. The earth would stabilize somewhere but it would be warmer than we want.
So we need something like this. You’re right that it’s mostly a human nature problem, but it’s still better that we develop tools so they’re useable when things get urgent enough that it becomes short term enough that we act.
Also is solutions get cheap enough that also allows action. Past solutions have been very costly: carbon is how we got the industrial revolution. There was no easy way to go back on that. Ni real options to maintain prosperity other than nuclear, which we had collectively ruled out. (Referring to past, not present. Solar is much cheaper now)
But we don't want to stop climate change.
We've decided to let it continue and worsen.
But here's the thing. Political problems have political solutions. You just have to figure out a way to adjust who gets hurt and who gets helped until the people happy with the solution have enough power so that they can steamroll those who remain unhappy.
For an index of 100+ companies working on mining carbon dioxide from the air, check out AirMiners http://www.airminers.org
- Agriculture: lots of CO2 are produced on-site under greenhouses by burning gas, because it speeds up the growing of crops.
- Sparkling drinks industry.
But I agree that "avoiding to output more CO2" is not a replacement for "removing CO2", and this is very important indeed. It's just an additional war front, not a replacement.
You’d need 1.5 million of these to remove just the USA’s yearly co2 emissions.
On the other hand, if this amount doubled every year, it would equal total US CO2 production in 21 years, total global CO2 production in 27 years.
Agree with the other comments that preventing emissions in the first place is far more efficient. Also, I think that CO2 removal is now included in many climate change models, so the benefit might not be too great.
This tells more about the ridiculous progression of exponential functions than about the efficiency of this process.
So can we make the machines that make the carbon out of the carbon that the machines capture?
However, it might seem like a portion of the solution, at least one worth exploring (which seems like the point of this), for a small country with abundant free energy to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement. So, essentially, the Paris Agreement has created enough of a market for this technology to be worth further development and fielding, and that seems like a good thing.
Its like we have a hydroelectric power plant, but people need so much power the water coming out of it is flooding towards the city to distroy it and there is an article 'scientists invented the 10 gallon bucket, allowing to move water back up the dam faster.'. I think this is also harmful, since these kind of successes might give people the wrong inpression where we actually stand.
Enthusiasm for carbon storage of various kinds is driven by the desperation of our situation. You've probably seen the IPCC projections to the year 2100 -- the models did not stop in 2100, rather the IPCC chooses only to show up until that point. You might look at the IPCC charts and think "easily survivable to 2100", see the curves go exactly where the eye wants to follow to 6.5 degree C in 2200. (At that point I don't think homo sap will be burning fossil fuels 'significantly')
The economics look favorable to capture carbon from a fermentation process (think an ethanol plant in Brazil) then compress it to 1500 psi and inject it into a saline aquifer. You could capture more carbon if you burned the product and captured the CO2 there but either you have to strip the CO2 from the atmospheric nitrogen in the exhaust or remove the nitrogen before burning, say
but the economics of the first option are all too well known (chemical engineers solve problems like that before breakfast) while the latter is largely undeveloped.
Despite all the talk, there has been very little implementation of the above BECCS technology even though the fermentation version did very well in trials.
Germany has managed to "generate enough renewables" to harm the economics of fossil fuel generation that fills in the gaps when the sun does not shine and the wind is not blowing. Fossil fuel methane from Russia with love. Capital costs of the associated gas turbines are low and helped to put steam-turbine dependent coal and nuclear power plants out of business. The trouble is that removing that last entrenched bit will be very hard in a world where they burn methane as the well-head.
(Nuclear power plants cannot win in terms of economics unless they ditch the steam turbine, that of course means developing a closed cycle gas turbine for nuclear use.)
Personal transport (cars) can be reformed when the feeling of crisis hits, but the development of sustainable fuels for aviation is decades behind that for cars, they are still trying to make "the right hydrocarbons" via the boondoggle Fischer-Tropsch process rather than productizing some reasonable molecule such as 1-butanol.
So hitting the braeks on CO2 output is not so easy, there is a case for carbon capture, my main concern is how you make the "apples and oranges" comparisons. Protecting rain forests is a great climate policy, but the economic value of CO2 captured by land use changes has to discount that the forest might get cut or burn up next year, that you can't measure it easily. Any kind of "carbon credit" will be colonized by Enron-style energy traders and directed towards things that look like they work as opposed to things that work.
I read a lot of "Trees are _The_ solution"-esq news whenever Climeworks is brought up and while they do sequester carbon the reality is they are slow and cannot solely be used to lower atmospheric CO₂ levels.
Earth, as we know it today, has the potential to plant an additional 0.9 billion ha of canopy cover (~1.2 trillion trees)
Trees will ultimately help in the long run, no doubt, but will need to be supported by a myriad of other methods such as Climeworks. Ryan Orbuch of Stripe wrote a great primer on some of the other carbon removal methods.
If you want to really take meaningful action, choose taking CO₂ out of the air over carbon credits. Even if we reduce to zero tomorrow there is still an excess of carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere today.
I came across a company making CO₂ negative thermo-plastics the other day which is the closest so far I think we can come to your idea :-)
Why not both? Allow companies to buy additional carbon credits from co2 sinks? Allow companies to decide between stopping a harmful industrial process or paying for its externalities.
To truly reverse the emissions an individual or company has, Carbon Removal is really the only way.
Carbon credits _can_ encourage businesses to reduce their emissions (and if a company has money to help - great!) but reducing a third-parties emissions is not a green-light to justify my own wrongdoings.
If I emit a ton and pay credits to offset a ton, a ton is still out there. If I emit a ton and remove a ton I am at net zero emissions.
The basic idea is to allow companies to ramp down their emissions by releasing fewer credits each year.
I could see a compromise being that one carbon credit is worth a tonne of carbon emissions, but two tonnes of sequestered carbon. So companies would have to pay for the removal of some factor of what they produce.
275 ppm (Target PPM, based on pre-industrial levels)
3210 gigatonnes - ((3210 gigatonnes / 410) * 275) = 1057 gigatonnes to remove.
Advertised scale: 4000 tons per year
(1057 gigatonnes / 4000 tons per year) = 264250000 years
reasonable timeline: 30 years
30 years / 264250000 years = 8808333x increase needed. Call it roughly 10^7 times faster.
So, a lot.
33,000,000,000 / 4408 = ~7486388 years to remove.
All the vegetation, land, and ocean can absorb about 17 Gt CO2 per year (Currently. Of course massively burning forests or increasingly carbon saturated oceans are going to significantly impact this equation as things get worse.)
So this technology would need to get at least 16,000,000,000 / 4408 = 3629764 times more effective just to keep things from getting any worse. And even so, this still seems like one of the more hopeful options because artificial capture could potentially be scaled much higher using less space than vegetation, given enough renewable energy. But even more efficient is simply emitting less carbon.
Who says this is the ideal level to be at?
If you have other opinions, by all means, do your own math :)
There are dozens, hundreds more studies, graphs, and other data to answer that question. At this point, due to the overwhelming amount of research data available, this kind of question should be considered as made in bad faith.
Al Gore made ridiculous claims back in 2008 about how bad it would get in just 10 years (making it seem that the trend was linear, which it isn't) and he was completely wrong on most of them - so the question I raise is very much valid.
The last time CO2 levels were at levels we see today humans had not evolved yet. The last time 1000ppm CO2 was in the atmosphere the apex predators were giant carnivorous birds.
We are looking at billions of deaths from climate change if we stopped producing CO2 tomorrow and tens of thousands of years until the climate returns to pre-industrial levels.
This seems to me to be the more absurd position. The challenge of “returning the climate to pre-industrial levels” is easily solvable without any magical technology with merely tens of trillions of dollars. Given a few decades additional progress in rocketry, perhaps only a low single digit trillion dollars per decade (indexed to current real value).
Assuming a materials science advancement which permits a functional space-elevator, or the ability to do some manufacturing on the moon, it gets significantly cheaper even than that.
The problem is per-capita consumption. The "westernization" of India and China is 2.5-3 billion people that want western consumption patterns.
Of course it is. Populations always eventually demand development, aka "westernization". So as the world population grows, so does the consumption.
This includes dairy + meat consumption, where about 70 billion animals are farmed for food each year right now. When someone brings up that humans are overpopulating the planet, I've never heard someone mention that overpopulating the planet with livestock is also an issue.
Someone always brings up agricultural emissions.
The Australian government talks about it directly here:
There would not be a single source of failure. Such a system can be self -healing. It can potentially be adaptive if local people are able to implement it in ways that make sense for their place and community. (Otherwise, it runs into the same kind if globalist mindset from high modernity).
You don’t have to find a single tree species to do this. Instead, you look at what is already growing in the local area and plant those. Doing it that way solves way more problems than carbon emissions. We are talking about food forests (solve the food distribution problem), emotional and mental health (humans recover from illnesses better when they can see trees), resiliency (from decentralized food systems and biodiversity), and so on.
> Once initialized, both processes produce net energy. For typical inputs, the energy required to run a "fast" pyrolyzer is approximately 15% of the energy that it outputs. Modern pyrolysis plants can use the syngas created by the pyrolysis process and output 3–9 times the amount of energy required to run.
Wow, that's impressive. I had not heard about this before, and I'm impressed that this is a sustainable process that may produce durable carbon sequestration. Thanks for the tip!
The things are melting.
Stopping all CO2 production tomorrow isn't going to re-freeze the melty bits.
Nevertheless, that can only decrease the addition of CO2, while this can potentially reduce the absolute amount in due course.
I think sequestering the carbon into the soil through plants is a better idea. The mineralization will not be bioavailable in the ecosystem. It isn’t as if carbon itself is a bad thing so much as its excess amount in the atmosphere. Futhermore, having more plants and fungi and living ecosystems fixes other problems besides greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Or better yet, fix the underlying thing on our global civilization’s obsession with technology that emits all of this in the first place. I am not necessarily talking about the tech so much as why we in our society think we can’t live without it.
I would also argue that it’s not society that can’t live without hydrocarbons as much as it is the entrenched industries that profit from them.
The profit motive are driven by individuals who seek to accumulate wealth and control access to them. That same game is played by people who don’t have wealth yet expect the tide to raise all boats. But we also compare ourselves to other people to give ourselves a sense of progress. The general ethical principles do not include a relationship with place, land, communities.
So the cultural hole we are in is really just a few hundred years deep, not thousands. It's just not so visible that that is the case, except perhaps to some indigenous cultures, or those who have visited the undeveloped world. This capacity for self-harm was built by forgetting our holistic selves and putting other things first - work, wealth, fame and glory, the national interest. It'll take a little work, but we can remember.
We need to find ways to satiate our hunger for resources in a sustainable manner (or find a way to import them from a nearby object in space), but we shouldn’t be ashamed of the progress we’ve made.
Let's take clean drinking water and sanitation. We have buildings and machines that take river water and aquifer water and purify the water to drinking level standards. We then pipe them (and sometimes those pipes have toxic buildups), introduce chlorine to help maintain its safety when delivering water.
But then we use that drinking-level standard water to (1) water our landscape and (2) flush the toilet.
That's kinda like that use of a microchip capable of running Doom to read the a paper strip on a preganancy test. (It made its round on twitter last couple of days).
To look at it a bigger picture and more abstractly, we're cleaning our human wastes using the hydrological cycle rather than the carbon cycle.
There's a community outside of Taos, NM that experiments with what are called earthship designs. (There are actual people living for years inside these earthships). These earthships are designed so that waste water cycles through the system three times before feeding a leach field, using landscaping plants to clean the waste (carbon cycle). By that I mean, clean water for drinking and washing gets reused as grey water, cleaned by plants, and then reused as toilet flushing water.
That integrated greenhouse is also a part of a passive heating and cooling system that keeps the inner environment a comfortable 70 - 80 degrees, with vents that can adjust the temperature. It maintains that temperature range in a high desert. In addition to temperature regulation, greenhouse provides supplemental food, part of the water purifications system.
That covers sanitation, adjusting climate, and some answer to a more secure food supply. I can deep dive what it means to have a distributed, decentralized food supply (in which compared to our centralized food supply that is fragile, ecologically disasterous, and not really nutritious for humans).
Our medical system is very good at treating acute problems, but very poor at treating chronic issues. It is generally not holistic, and there are blinders in the paradigms that prevent researchers from looking into effective treatments. Furthermore, in the US, medical care is in a runaway feedback loop between insurers and providers, significantly increasing costs for everyone. (Except say, the Amish. They get significant discounts from the hospitals because they always pay a large upfront deposite in cash before service, pay their bills, and have a religious sanction against suing the hospital and doctors). I can also deep dive on this, though the solutions here are murkier than what I can say about decentralized food systems.
But the main thing is: sustainability is _not_ enough. That is essentially saying, "do less harm". Baked into that paradigm is that the harm from our current practices is inevitable, so we should strive to do the least amount of harm with that inevitability.
Instead, we should be looking at regenerative practices, and one that is not anthropocentric. It requires a different way of seeing. We don't have to "regress". We can do a lot better.
Doing otherwise would require a massive duplicate water distribution network for non-drinkable water.
> There's a community outside of Taos, NM that experiments with what are called earthship designs. (There are actual people living for years inside these earthships). These earthships are designed so that waste water cycles through the system three times before feeding a leach field, using landscaping plants to clean the waste (carbon cycle). By that I mean, clean water for drinking and washing gets reused as grey water, cleaned by plants, and then reused as toilet flushing water.
There are more scaleable to recycle water, but I am generally in favour of the concept.
> That integrated greenhouse is also a part of a passive heating and cooling system that keeps the inner environment a comfortable 70 - 80 degrees, with vents that can adjust the temperature. It maintains that temperature range in a high desert. In addition to temperature regulation, greenhouse provides supplemental food, part of the water purifications system.
That sounds labour intensive and non-scalable. How big would this green house/ water recycling solution need to be to power a single apartment building? How many people would be required to keep it up and running? What’s keeping this green house warm?
> Our medical system is very good at treating acute problems, but very poor at treating chronic issues. It is generally not holistic, and there are blinders in the paradigms that prevent researchers from looking into effective treatments. Furthermore, in the US, medical care is in a runaway feedback loop between insurers and providers, significantly increasing costs
I wouldn’t use the American system as a basis for a critique of modern medicine. Every other developed country is able to avoid the mess you described.
> But the main thing is: sustainability is _not_ enough. That is essentially saying, "do less harm". Baked into that paradigm is that the harm from our current practices is inevitable, so we should strive to do the least amount of harm with that inevitability.
> Instead, we should be looking at regenerative practices, and one that is not anthropocentric. It requires a different way of seeing. We don't have to "regress". We can do a lot better.
You are going to have to be more concrete than that. Every living creature consumes resources from their environment and every creature will destroy their native environment unless held in check by predators or some other external limiting factor. Humans are the only animals to understand this, so we have the ability to moderate consumption.
> Doing otherwise would require a massive duplicate water distribution network for non-drinkable water.
No, we don't. Water can be cycled onsite for other uses. It does not require anything massive or a duplicate water distribution network. For example, a Y-switch can be used on the outflow from a washingmachine, with one fork distributing it to the landscaping.
> That sounds labour intensive and non-scalable. How big would this green house/ water recycling solution need to be to power a single apartment building? How many people would be required to keep it up and running? What’s keeping this green house warm?
It's mostly automated, using low-tech, passive methods. The water cycles through the plants on its own. It has the added benefits that you can get fresh food. You would plant perennials, not annuals, that are selected to form cooperative interactions (plant guilds). That significantly reduces the amount of labor to maintain it, though labor is involved for harvesting.
I think you are misunderstanding what the greenhouses in those earthships do. You have to first understand it in context: New Mexico high desert, with extremes in heat and cold. The greenhouses acts as a passive buffer to regulate temperature of the main living areas, and does not require active cooling or heating. Between the sun, the trapped moisture, and the plants own heat regulation biomechanism, it reduces the volatility in temperature extremes.
This type of system does not work without the construction method to build these houses. For other sites, you'd have to come up with different solutions. I don't know, for example, if earthships work in temperate (Mid-West), or extreme colds (Alaska). But I know they will work for most of the Southwest US.
As far as scaling up to something the size of an apartment building, I have no idea. The earthship designs share similar ideas with Arcosanti (in Arizona), which is probably one of the largest scale implementation for passive heating and cooling.
Generally, within a larger pool of people, there are going to some people who are interested in tending the plants. As far harvesting, I think you'd be surprised by how many people would be willing to participate in being able to harvest free, fresh food close to where they live.
> You are going to have to be more concrete than that. Every living creature consumes resources from their environment and every creature will destroy their native environment unless held in check by predators or some other external limiting factor. Humans are the only animals to understand this, so we have the ability to moderate consumption.
That's a false assumption. Although there are plenty of examples of species that will run without check, there are also examples of species that cooperate with each other.
As far as being concrete, what I was talking about is the lens, or the paradigm in which we interpret facts and understand the world. That isn't something concrete.
Furthermore, greater fertility supports a greater diversity of ecosystems, which enhances the resiliency of the overall living system. Greater overall resiliency helps bring basic security to the people and the land (the basic level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), and enables us to develop our own potential (self actualization), and our relationships within our ecosystem.
As an example, carbon can be sequestered in the form of biochar. Carbon in that form is not bioavailable to plants so much as bioavailable to fungi. The fungis don’t consume it so much as live in it. It becomes hydrophillic, and allows the soil to hold a lot more water and nutrients. That in turn enables greater fertility. Since it is not consumed, it can act as a long-lasting soil amendment (greater than a thousand years).
Human-made biochar is the reason there are some spots in the Amazon that supports and holds a great deal of fertility, enough to support a vast civilization (that only got destroyed by infectious disease from Europe during the colonial period). Without biochar, the frequent rain washes away nutrients, making those part of the jungle fragile.
but if you're using that fertile soil to grow food, wouldn't that mean the carbon is going to be un-sequestered?
I've watched the past 30-odd years - and my father for 50-odd years before that - as fertile farmland with good reliable rain (this is not a common combination in Australia) has been built-over with housing. Agriculture has been pushed further out to areas with less fertility and rainfall.
Most of the remaining wide open spaces in Australia can support little more than bush and patches of grass. All the good land with rainfall has people living on it.
Before it was Silicon Valley, the Peninsula was said to be the best citrus growing land on Earth.
It's a nice place to live, don't get me wrong. But I can't help feeling like growing detached single-family homes instead wasn't a good trade.
You wouldn't make a profit doing so though, which tells you that the collective hivemind that makes up the economy prefers houses over trees.
It's also true that, if I wanted to build a nice subdivision under El Capitan in Yosemite, I would find that I'm quite unable. The collective hivemind that makes up the body politic prefers a national park over houses.
So now that we've acknowledged that Mammon isn't the only god in our pantheon, perhaps we can make better decisions on that basis, going forward.
For that specific problem, you could imagine policies allowing you some kind of 'zoning swap' - where you get a bit of land in one physical location and swap all laws, covenants, and restrictions for land in another region. Obviously you might not have a 1:1 exchange rate...
Most of the land on Earth is not used by humans. Where are we lacking space, exactly?
Even in the most optimistic scenarios, it's clear that we'll need additional carbon capture to avoid situations like 3-4 degrees C of warming.
What a fatalistic view of the future.
The company’s ambitions for mass production may still seem extreme. To actually capture 1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions by 2025 would, by Gebald’s calculations, require that Climeworks build 250,000 carbon-capture plants like the ones on the roof at Hinwil. That adds up to about 4.5 million carbon collectors. For a company that has only built 100 collectors (and has 14 small plants around Europe), it’s a staggering number. The Climeworks founders therefore try to think of their product as the automotive industry might — a piece of mass-produced technology and metal, not the carbon they hope to sequester. “What we’re doing is gas separation,” Wurzbacher said, “and that’s traditionally a process-industry business, like oil and gas. But we don’t really see ourselves there.”
The founders note that Toyota makes more than 10 million cars annually. “Every CO₂ collector has about the same weight and dimensions of a car — roughly two tons, and roughly 2 meters by 2 meters by 2 meters,” Gebald said. “And all the methods used to produce the CO₂ collectors could be well automated. So we have the automotive industry as a model for how to produce things in large quantities for low cost.” The two men have already sought advice from Audi. They are also aware that the automotive industry perfected its methods over the course of 100 years. Climeworks, if it plans to have even a modest impact, doesn’t have nearly as much time.
Part of the goal is to have the technology ready to go, so that when the U.S. finally wakes up and realizes the peril, we'll have a response.
A big chunk of humanity’s CO2 emissions come from sources that are hard to remove, like farming and concrete production. Getting to net zero or negative carbon will require a lot of sequestration.
For example, it would be madness to store excess solar power in the summer to be used to cover the winter shortfall. You just build enough panels to make it through the winter, and have excess energy in the summer. Much cheaper than building storage of any form that's only used for 30 cycles in its lifetime.
A solution that is capital efficient can sit around, waiting to be turned on when there's excess energy. When the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, it's basically free.
If you need to run the plant even 25% of the time for it to make sense, it's not going to be able to take advantage of these fluctuations and that's going to make it a much tougher sell.
This is why I'm hopeful for hydrogen for storage; over provisioning hydrolysis capacity is not intrinsically difficult, and low efficiency isn't a deal breaker when you don't have anything else to do with the excess.
Seems reasonable to say no.
We need every tool we can get to fight this thing.
At this price point, launching a few million tons of solar shades into the L1 Lagrange point is probably more economical.
Sucking gigatons of CO2 from the air at the current efficiency is basically infinite dollars, but it could conceivably be cost competitive with the solar shade in a few decades. It basically just requires massive amounts of fully renewable energy, so the benefit is it’s a massive renewable energy generation subsidy.
But renewables are already more than cost competitive, the problem we have now is energy storage (batteries).
DAC has limitations that likely keep it from being the sole solution to CO2 levels, but it can be developed incrementally without much risk and then deployed on the margins where it makes sense (e.g., on top of geothermal, in the Sahara next to a PV array).
Both technologies are not “one-shot” but rather are things which are deployed along a spectrum measured in “gigatons of CO2 extracted” or “tons of diffractive material deployed”.
You don’t put one big mirror in place as a binary thing. You deploy thousands to millions of tons of “mirrors” overall, ~100 tons at a time. Imagine a payload of carbon fiber snowflakes which get dropped off, coated in such a way that they self orient broad-side toward the sun.
I wonder what the effective carbon offset of 100 tons of diffractive material at L1 buys you. Given that you could draw a direct cost/benefit comparison.
If only we could do some sort of bio-tech and create some sort of plant that could convert solar energy in sequestered CO2. Plants are pretty useless as well I guess.
Random fact Iceland abundance of energy is from dams and nothing to do with geothermal, that's just for branding because it's cool and people can't think.