Inside the race to scale up CO2 capture technology and hit internet zero

“Negative emissions” systems include sucking CO₂ out of the environment. They are vital to internet-zero local weather plans – but does any one know how to make them perform?


18 August 2021

Peter Crowther

A STAR attraction at the Science Museum in London ideal now is a tree. Not an tasteful product or service of evolution, but some thing that seems fairly like a steampunk collision of an industrial air-conditioning unit and an accordion. What researcher Klaus Lackner’s mechanical tree has in common with the natural assortment, on the other hand, is that it is good at sucking carbon dioxide out of the air.

We are heading to need a large amount of that in the coming decades if we are to realize web-zero carbon emissions by mid-century and so head off the worst of the climate disaster. The crucial word below is “net”. Even when we have wiped out all the emissions we can, intractable sources will stay, from the likes of food items output, traveling and weighty marketplace. Unfavorable emissions systems are intended to bridge the gap – by eliminating CO₂ now in the atmosphere.

This earlier year, individuals and firms from Elon Musk to Microsoft and US oil business Occidental Petroleum have fully commited sizeable sums to many strategies to do just that. But they are controversial. Campaigner Greta Thunberg lately derided governments for pinning their climate plans on “fantasy-scaled” versions of “barely existing” systems. Even if they can scale up, there are fears about whether the treatment would be even worse than the condition, due to probable downsides of adverse emissions engineering for biodiversity, drinking water usage, foods creation and electrical power use. Time to inquire: when it arrives to carbon removing, do we really know what we are undertaking?

As past week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Local climate Alter (IPCC) designed plainer than at any time ahead of, we are …

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