We need technologies that draw carbon dioxide from the air and either re-use or store it. While we must curtail our carbon emissions we must also find ways to reduce existing levels of atmospheric carbon. Climate change is caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon. Prior to the dawn of the industrial revolution atmospheric carbon levels were below 300 ppm, they are currently above 400 ppm and climbing. In 2009 Columbia University Physicist Peter Eisenberger claimed to have invented a machine that could clean carbon from the air. As explained in MIT Technology Review, his company called Global Thermostat uses chemicals called amines rather than sodium hydroxide.
“Negative emissions are definitely needed to restore the atmosphere given that we’re going to far exceed any safe limit for CO2, if there is one,” says Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.
Reducing the emissions that we produce is essential but we need to think about a post-sustainability world. Our current INDC pledges are inadequate as they will not reduce emissions enough to keep up from breaching the 2 Celsius upper threshold limit. We must begin thinking about technologies that will enable us to actively remove carbon from the air.
Carbon Engineering is one of the leading companies working on the industrial-scale capture of CO2 from ambient air. Below you will find a Carbon Talk, by Dr. Richard Adamson, President of Carbon Management Canada Research Institutes. This video explores the need and the state of industrial-scale air capture technology development.
Dr. Naoko Ellis, Professor of Chemical Engineering at UBC, introduced the audience to some of the innovative technologies currently under development, including different methods for carbon capture from the air such as amine scrubbers, sorbents, and metal-organic frameworks. She also discussed engineering new forms of hydrocarbon combustion that do not release CO2 and the need to commodify CO2.
Following the presentation, discussion during the dialogue touched on the role of technology in creating climate solutions and how carbon pricing can drive economic innovation.
— Richard Adamson, President, CMC Research Institutes
— Naoko Ellis, Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia
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