Can sucking CO2 out of the air save the planet?

Scientists, engineers, and businessmen are working on it.

But it looks better on paper than it probably would work in real life. For one thing, it’s hugely expensive. And, most likely, it’s a desperate last-resort remedy for keeping the earth habitable. But it might be all we have left, given the trajectory we’re on — i.e., humanity is too slow to abandon fossil fuels.

The technologies are complicated. So are the economics. Mother Jones magazine goes over them in a lengthy article here.

What makes more sense than continuing to pour billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, and then paying trillions of dollars to suck it out of the air and bury it underground (what if it gets loose someday?), is to decarbonize our civilization and economies as fast as we can.

That’s a better use of resources.

Photo above: A carbon capture pilot plant near Squamish, British Columbia. You’d need much bigger plants than this, and an awful lot of them, to make a dent. Below: A patent office drawing of a carbon capture process.

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  1. Mark Adams #

    The criticism maybe appropriate, but it ignores science and neglects an obvious reason to suck carbon dioxide out of the air. Why not get that carbon dioxide into long strings of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen like plants do. Or wy not more efficient plants. Of course when the planet warms rge oceans will not be able to continue holding the vast amounts of CO2 they contain and Earth will return to a more normal 2000 particles per million of CO2.
    The real question that should be asked is to what degree would we have to decarbonize To a point we have not seen since 1910 or before? It also ignores the benefits of more CO2 in the atmosphere which would mean there is no need for these plants unless we want them to make fossil fuels.
    Anyone serious about climate change should be whole heartedly embracing nuclear p0wer yet oddly that is not happening. The rich continue buying beach front property. The Chinese continue making islands at sea level. Oh the science. Hug a tree 99% of the CO2 and water were sucked right out of the air.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    Did you bother to read the article?

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