Large carbon capture without technology

We humans are in a trance because we put too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and cause climate change that could even wipe us out. There may still be some people for whom this is a controversial statement, but knowing that something needs to be done about it should be a position where you don’t have to be a climate change worker to lock yourself in the door of a refinery.

It is clear that we can reduce our CO2 emissions to deal with the problem, but it is not the only way to reduce atmospheric CO2. How about removing it from the air? This is a method that is being taken seriously enough to offer several industrial carbon capture solutions and even to build a pilot plant in Iceland. The most promising idea is that CO2 from the power station can be injected into porous basalt rock where it can react to form calcium carbonate. All of which are very impressive, but there is no way to achieve this without resorting to too much technology? It’s time to take out the envelope calculator for Hackade and take a look.

With so much CO2 in the air, is it possible to remove it?

Carbon dioxide emissions by source since 1880
This graph helps to illustrate the scale of the problem. Efbrazil, CC BY-SA 4.0.

First, whether the scale of the problem is measured or the futility of trying to deal with it, it is worth measuring how much CO2 we release. There are several slightly different figures depending on where you are prepared to look, but most of them agree that people are responsible for over 40 billion tons of CO2 per year. On a per capita basis, Americans account for 15.52 tons each, Canadians 18.58 tons each, and on the Atlantic side where this is being written, the British account for 5.5 tons each. It is worth repeating these figures to show the futility of imagining that some carbon capture plants can scrub the air of CO2 and make a significant difference, because the sheer scale of the problem is such that even the most extensive industrial expansion will find it. It’s hard to keep up.

The first and most obvious way to capture and store large amounts of carbon in non-industrial ways is of course in the form of biomass. The growing trees that become perennial forests seem attractive and quite easy to do, but how realistic is it to make a hole in this emission? According to a National Geographic report of an ETH Zurich survey published in 2019, the size of the newly forested United States could reduce atmospheric CO2 by 25% in 100 years, which makes for a great sound, but it rarely seems like planting a USA-sized land there. Ready for If there is a global desire for planting, it can be an achievable goal, but it is difficult to imagine such a movement in such an ambitious project until the waters of the Chesapeake Bay come to the forefront without the lip service from politicians. White House. It is clear that forests will play a role in tackling our CO2 problem, they cannot solve it alone.

Pieces of basalt stone
Can basalt hold the key to reducing atmospheric CO2? Amcyrus2012, CC BY 4.0

Another intriguing idea came to us through a study by the University of Sheffield, which suggested that the UK could reach 45% of its net-zero emissions target through so-called accelerated weather. CO2 is naturally absorbed by rocks because they are covered by the weakly acidic effect of CO2 dissolved in rainwater, and this concept suggests farmers to extend this effect by applying crushed rock as a soil dressing.

This is an on-the-surface take on the concept of basalt injection, where a large surface area of ​​rock releases much more CO2 from the air as the weather progresses. CO2 is locked in this way, which offsets the emissions. Basalt rock paper is simple enough to make it realistic, but they acknowledge that the scale of the operation will need to be handled with care. Are we ready to lose a whole mountain of rocks in the face of climate change? Maybe not yet, but still again the waters of the Thames estuary can sharpen the attention wandering around 10 Downing Street.

It is clear that there is no magic solution to climate change that will allow us to continue to emit CO2 as if nothing is wrong. There is no super-forest that we can plant, no clever factory that we can build, and no magic soil dressing that will clear the air. However, what emerges from reading these technologies is that they can play a role in offsetting a portion of each emission and, in addition to a meaningful effort to reduce emissions in the first place, help us achieve our coveted net zero. The question is, do we have the public and political will to do this?

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