Sitting at 414.8 parts per million (ppm), the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is at the highest point in human history, according to a recent report by Axios. Most scientists agree that the best way to combat this rise is to reduce carbon emissions.
But the fact that emissions jumped a near-record amount over the past year, rising 3.5 ppm, signals that the world is failing miserably in reducing emissions. However, cutting-edge “carbon capture technology” could aid in lowering carbon concentrations, as Fast Company reports.
An Interesting Apparatus
Tucked away in a field near Huntsville, Alabama, is an interesting apparatus. Giant fans alighted atop shipping containers siphon air into chambers that absorb carbon dioxide.
The equipment stands as the largest commercial “direct air capture” plant on the planet. Operated by startup Global Thermostat, the facility can remove 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide over a year. That’s about the equivalent emission of 870 cars.
There is, however, a lot of controversy surrounding the new tech. Critics argue that carbon capture technology is still unproven on a large scale. It also creates a moral dilemma. Detractors are afraid that the world’s biggest carbon emitters will point to the technology as a miracle cure to get around reducing emissions.
The Bottom Line
But the bottom line is: the world needs all the help it can get to reach net-zero emissions. Independent research outfit Rhodium Group recently released a study calculating that between 560 and 1,850 million metric tons of CO2 need to be snatched from the atmosphere to hit net-zero emissions by mid-century.
“We found that you need everything,” said Rhodium Group’s John Larsen. “You need to be doing as much as you can on the emission reduction side, and you need to be pursuing carbon dioxide removal on all fronts.” The planet’s natural carbon dioxide removal system is its forests, so replanting trees is essential.
While carbon capture can’t replace trees, the technology has some advantages over its leafy counterparts. First, the carbon capture units don’t require as much space as trees do. Second, a single plant can remove the equivalent amount of carbon as 40 million trees over the same time frame.
Looking to the Future
If the world can’t achieve net-zero emissions in the not too distant future, the consequences are dismal. The average global temperature has already seen a 1 degree Celcius rise. While this may not seem like much, the recent droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires that are ravaging the planet are linked to this warming trend.
Furthermore, if the temperature climbs another half degree, it could mean the loss of millions of lives along with trillions of dollars. While carbon capture technology isn’t a silver bullet, it will undoubtedly be an invaluable weapon in combating climate change.