State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Can Removing Carbon From the Atmosphere Save Us From Climate Catastrophe?

carbon dioxide removal
A rendering of Carbon Engineering’s large-scale carbon dioxide removal plant, which will use direct air capture. Photo: Carbon Engineering Ltd.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that limiting global warming to 1.5˚C could avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change. In its recent report, it laid out four means of achieving this —and all of them rely on removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is because even if we cut most of our carbon emissions down to zero, emissions from agriculture and air travel would be difficult to eliminate altogether. And since carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere can affect climate for hundreds to thousands of years, the IPCC maintains that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies will be critical to get rid of 100 to 1000 gigatonnes of CO2 this century.

How can carbon dioxide be removed?

There are a variety of CDR strategies, all in different stages of development, and varying in cost, benefits and risks. CDR approaches that employ trees, plants and soil to absorb carbon have been used at large scale for decades; other strategies that rely more on technology are mostly at the demonstration or pilot stages. Each strategy has pros and cons.

Afforestation and reforestation

As plants and trees grow, they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into sugars through photosynthesis. In this way, U.S. forests absorb 13 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions; globally, forests store almost a third of the world’s emissions.

Reforestation in Southern Oregon. Photo: Downtowngal

Planting additional trees could remove more carbon from the atmosphere and store it for a long time, as well as improve soil quality at a relatively low cost—$0 to $20 per ton of carbon. Afforestation involves planting trees where there were none previously; reforestation means restoring forests where trees have been damaged or depleted.

Afforestation, however, could compete for land used for agriculture just as food production needs to increase 70 percent by 2050 to feed the growing world population. It could also affect biodiversity and ecosystem services.

And although forests can sequester carbon for decades, they take many years to grow and can become saturated in decades to centuries. They also require careful management because they are subject to human and natural impacts such as wildfires, drought and pest infestations.

Soil carbon sequestration 

The carbon that plants absorb from the atmosphere in photosynthesis becomes part of the soil when they die and decompose. It can remain there for millennia or it can be released quickly depending on climatic conditions and how the soil is managed. Minimal tillage, cover crops, crop rotation and leaving crop residues on the field help soils store more carbon.

Italian ryegrass as a cover crop after maize harvest in S. Africa. Photo: Alan Manson

The IPCC, which considers soil carbon sequestration to have the ability to reduce CO2 at the lowest cost—$0 to $100 per ton—estimates that soil carbon sequestration could remove between 2 and 5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2050. By comparison, the world’s power plants released 32.5 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2017.

Soil carbon sequestration could be deployed immediately, and would improve soil health and increase crop yield; moreover it would not stress land and water resources. But while soil stores large amounts of carbon in the beginning, it can become saturated after 10 to 100 years, depending on climate, soil type and how it is managed.

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)

If we burn plants for energy at a power plant and capture and store the resulting emissions, the CO2 the plants previously absorbed is removed from the atmosphere. The CO2 can then be used for enhanced oil recovery or injected into the earth where it is sequestered in geologic formations.

The IPCC estimates that BECCS could remove between 0.5 and 5 gigatonnes of carbon a year by 2050. To absorb enough carbon to keep the world at 2˚, however, energy crops would need to be planted over an area of land up to three times the size of India, according to one estimate; and even smaller amounts of BECCS would compete with land needed for food production. One study concluded that large-scale BECCS could cause global forest cover to fall 10 percent and require twice as much water as is currently used globally for agriculture. BECCS could also end up impacting biodiversity and ecosystem services, and generating greenhouse gas emissions through farming and fertilizer use.

At this point, BECCS is expensive. Right now, there is only one working BECCS project in the world—an ethanol plant in Decatur, IL that has captured and stored over 1.4 million tons of CO2. Because there are so few research projects and BECCS is untested on a large scale, it is still in an early stage of development. While current cost estimates for BECCS range between $30 and $400 per ton of CO2, studies project that costs could drop to $100 to $200 per ton of carbon by 2050. Nevertheless, BECCS is considered one of the most potentially effective carbon dioxide removal strategies for providing long-term carbon storage.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine projects that given what we know today, afforestation and reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, and BECCS, along with sustainable forestry management practices (such as thinning forests and prescribed burns) could be scaled up to capture and store 1 gigatonne of carbon a year in the U.S. and 10 gigatonnes globally. However, this would require huge changes in agriculture, forest and biomass waste management.

Carbon mineralization

This strategy exploits a natural process wherein reactive materials like peridotite or basaltic lava chemically bond with CO2, forming solid carbonate minerals such as limestone that can store CO2 for millions of years. The reactive materials can be combined with CO2-bearing fluid at carbon capture stations, or the fluid can be pumped into reactive rock formations where they naturally occur.

Calcite, a carbonate mineral, forming in basalt. Photo: Sigrg

Scientists at the Earth Institute’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have been working on carbon mineralization for several years, and are finding ways of speeding up the natural reaction to increase CO2 uptake and permanently store it. Lamont research professor David Goldberg and his colleagues, for example, are studying the feasibility of storing 50 million tons or more of CO2 in basalt reservoirs in the Pacific Northwest. Over 20 years, the project would inject CO2 from industrial sources, such as manufacturing and fossil fuel power plants, into basalt 200 miles offshore, on the eastern flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. There, beneath 2600 meters of water and another 200 meters of sediment, the basalt reservoir contains pore spaces that would fill up as the CO2 mineralizes into carbonate limestone. In this area, the basalt reacts quickly and mineralization could potentially take only two years or less. Goldberg’s team has analyzed factors including how to transport the CO2, how it would react chemically, and how the site could be monitored over time.

The next step is to launch a pilot project there to store 10,000 tons of CO2. “A pilot project is critical to move the ball forward for basalt offshore carbon mineralization, both for technical and regulatory reasons,” said Goldberg. It would enable the researchers to experiment with different kinds of injections—for example, whether they should be continuous or intermittent—and answer questions such as ‘how fast does the pore space fill up?’ which can only be tested in the field. In addition, a pilot project is key to understanding the regulatory implications of carbon mineralization, since no regulations currently exist. Canada and the U.S. would only begin creating a regulatory framework when they have a pilot project. Goldberg says they’re still looking for funding for a pilot project, but “There’s a lot of interest.”

Since 2012, CarbFix, an Icelandic project that Goldberg also worked on, has been capturing carbon and mineralizing it at the country’s largest geothermal power plant run by Reykjavik Energy. While the plant runs on geothermal renewable energy, it still emits a small amount of CO2; CarbFix injects 12,000 tons of CO2 yearly into the ground for $30 per ton.

Because carbon mineralization takes advantage of natural chemical processes, it has the potential to provide an economical, non-toxic and permanent way to store huge amounts of carbon. However, there are still technical and environmental questions that need to be answered—according to the National Academies report, carbon mineralization could possibly contaminate water resources or trigger earthquakes.

Direct air capture

Direct air capture sucks carbon dioxide out of the air by using fans to move air over substances that bind specifically to carbon dioxide. (This concept is based on the “artificial tree” work of Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University, who was for many years the director of the Earth Institute’s Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy.) The technology employs compounds in a liquid solution or in a coating on a solid that capture CO2 as they come into contact with it; when later exposed to heat and chemical reactions, they release the CO2, which can then be compressed and stored underground. The benefits of direct air capture are that it is actually a negative emissions technology—it can remove carbon that’s already in the atmosphere, as opposed to capturing new emissions being generated—and the systems could be located almost anywhere.

At a coal plant, about one in ten molecules in exhaust gas is CO2, but CO2 in the atmosphere is less concentrated. Only one in 2,500 molecules is CO2, so the process for removing CO2 is more expensive compared to capturing carbon from fossil fuel plants. Direct air capture started out at $600 per ton of carbon; currently it costs $100-$200 a ton—still expensive, in part because there are no economic incentives (such as a carbon tax) or secondary environmental benefits (such as enhanced soil quality) to removing CO2 from the air. Improving the technology so that CO2 can be captured more efficiently, and/or selling the captured CO2 can bring the price down. Three companies—Swiss Climeworks, Canadian Carbon Engineering, and American Global Thermostat—are working on this.

Climeworks’s first commercial plant near Zurich captures 1,000 metric tons of CO2 a year, which is used in a greenhouse to boost crop yields by 20 percent. In 2017, the company installed a direct air capture unit as a demo at Reykjavik Energy’s Icelandic plant to capture a small amount of CO2 that then gets stored underground by CarbFix.

Reykjavik Energy’s Hellisheidi plant in Iceland with direct air capture. Photo: Sigrg

Climeworks now has 14 direct air capture facilities built or under construction in Europe; its Italian plant uses the captured CO2 to make methane fuel for trucks.

Carbon Engineering, which boasts Bill Gates as an investor, has a plant in western Canada that can capture one million tons of CO2 a year. It projects that at large scale, it could remove CO2 for $100 to $150 per ton. Its goal is to use the CO2 to make carbon-neutral synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, which would further lower its cost. The company maintains that a facility using this “Air to Fuels” process, once scaled up, could produce fuel at less than $1 dollar a liter.

Global Thermostat, which is building its first plant in Huntsville, AL, is aiming to get its price down to $50 a ton by selling the captured CO2 to a soda company. The company would build small on-site “capture plants” at the soda maker’s facilities, thus reducing costs for energy and transportation.

One study projected that direct air capture could suck up 0.5 to 5 gigatonnes of CO2 a year by 2050 with possibly 40 gigatonnes by 2100. However, large scale direct air capture could eventually have environmental impacts stemming from the extraction, refining, transport and waste disposal of the minerals that capture the carbon emissions.

While direct air capture has great potential for carbon dioxide removal, it is still at an early stage of development. Fortunately, it is getting some Congressional support in the form of the FUTURE Act (the Furthering carbon capture, Utilization, Technology, Underground storage, and Reduced Emissions Act). The act doubles the tax credits for capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide in geological formations and using it for enhanced oil recovery; for companies that convert carbon to other products such as cement, chemicals, plastics and fuels; and provides a $35 tax credit per ton of CO2 via direct air capture.

Enhanced weathering

Rocks and soil become weathered by reacting with CO2 in the air or in acid rain, which naturally occurs when CO2 in air dissolves in rainwater. The rocks break down, creating bicarbonate, a carbon sink, which is eventually carried into the ocean where it is stored. Enhanced weathering speeds up this process by spreading pulverized rock, such as basalt or olivine, on agricultural land or on the ocean. It could be crushed and spread on fields and beaches, and even used for paths and playgrounds.

Enhanced weathering could improve soil quality, and as the alkaline bicarbonate washes into the ocean, it could help neutralize ocean acidification. But it could also potentially alter soil pH and chemical properties, and affect ecosystems and groundwater. Mining, grinding and transporting the rock would be costly, require a lot of energy and produce additional carbon emissions as well as air pollution. Due to the many variables and the fact that most assessments of enhanced weathering have not been tested in the field, cost estimates vary widely.

Ocean alkalinization, considered a type of enhanced weathering, involves adding alkaline minerals, such as olivine, to the ocean surface to increase CO2 uptake and counteract ocean acidification. One study estimated that this strategy could sequester between 100 metric tons to 10 gigatonnes of CO2 a year, for costs ranging from $14 to over $500 a ton. Its ecological impacts, however, are unknown.

Ocean fertilization

Phytoplankton off the coast of Finland. Photo: Stuart Rankin

Ocean fertilization would add nutrients, often iron, to the ocean to prompt algal blooms, which would absorb more CO2 through photosynthesis. However, by stimulating the growth of phytoplankton—the basis of the food chain—ocean fertilization could affect local and regional food productivity. Vast algal blooms could also cause eutrophication and result in dead zones depleted of oxygen. In addition to its possible ecosystem impacts, it also has less potential to sequester carbon over the long term.

Coastal blue carbon

Salt marshes, mangroves, sea grasses and other plants in tidal wetlands are responsible for more than half of the carbon sequestered in the ocean and coastal ecosystems. This blue carbon can be stored for millennia in the plants and sediments. However, wetlands are being destroyed by runoff and pollution, drought and coastal development—a soccer field-sized area of seagrass is lost every half hour. Restoring and creating wetlands and managing them better could potentially double their carbon storage. Healthy wetlands also provide storm protection, improve water quality and support marine life.

There are few estimates of the carbon removal potential of blue carbon, but the costs would be low to zero.

And some ideas for the future

Y Combinator, an organization that funds promising startups, has put out a call for any working on new types of carbon dioxide removal technologies, none of which have yet been tested outside of a lab. Specifically, they are looking for projects in four areas:

  • Modifying the genes of phytoplankton would enable them to sequester carbon in areas of the global ocean that lack the nutrients needed for photosynthesis.
  • Electro-geo-chemistry uses electricity from renewable sources to break saline water down to produce hydrogen (which can be used for fuel) and oxygen, which, in the presence of minerals, produces a highly reactive solution. This solution absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turns it into bicarbonate.
  • Enzyme systems speed up chemical reactions that could change carbon dioxide into other useful organic compounds. Y Combinator would like to create enzyme systems that can do this outside of living cells to simplify carbon fixation.
  • The last idea involves creating 4.5 million little oases in deserts to host phytoplankton that would absorb CO2. They would also provide fresh water and support vegetation that could also suck up carbon.

What’s needed to advance carbon dioxide removal?

Each CDR technology is feasible at some level, but has uncertainties about cost, technology, the speed of possible implementation, or environmental impacts. It’s clear that no single one provides the ultimate solution to climate change.

“Carbon dioxide removal alone cannot do it,” said Kate Gordon, a fellow at the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy. “If there’s one thing the IPCC report really underscores is that we need a portfolio—we need to reduce emissions dramatically, we need to come up with more renewable energy options to replace fossil fuels, we need to electrify a lot of things that are currently run on petroleum and then we need to do an enormous amount of carbon removal.” In the near term she would like to see more deployment and ramping up of tried and true strategies, such as tree planting trees and more sustainable agricultural practices.

Grassland conservation in South Dakota Photo: USFWS

In fact, a new study just determined that planting trees and improving management of grasslands, agricultural lands and wetlands could sequester 21 percent of the U.S.’s annual greenhouse gas emissions at relatively low cost.

Developing the other carbon dioxide removal strategies further is going to take substantial amounts of money.

“The climate philanthropy community actually needs to recognize this as part of the climate solution—it’s really important that [CDR] becomes part of that portfolio,” said Gordon. “We also need a pretty significant federal R&D budget dedicated to these strategies so we can start improving the technology and get a better grasp on how much it does cost to do each of these things, how effective they are and how safe they are.”

Establishing a financial incentive to remove carbon such as a carbon tax or penalties for emitting carbon would help as well.

“This is the next frontier of the energy, climate and technology conversation,” said Gordon. ”We need to be ahead of this thing if we want to stay competitive—if we want to continue to have most of the world’s clean energy and advanced energy patents…Otherwise we’ll be buying it from somebody else, because someone’s going to do it.”

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Kirk Harris
Kirk Harris
5 years ago

Biomass gasification has not been mentioned here. It is an old way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and has an unfortunate history due to very poor quality techniques used for producing charcoal. New techniques can burn the gas, formed by heating the wood, very efficiently giving us a useful energy source that can generate electricity. Once the volitiles are gasified, the remaining non-volitile charcoal represents from 20 to 30 percent of the original fuel by weight. This charcoal can be saved from combustion, and has many valuable uses. It can be added to the soil to help retain water and nutrients for plants, used in water filters, or used as a carbon source. Biomass gasification has some problems to overcome just like coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydro power, solar, geothermal, and wind. But only one of these energy sources can remove CO2 from the atmosphere on a first hand basis, biomass gasification. Does it not make sense to concentrate research on a time tested technique, updated with new technology, that will give us both an energy source and remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Kirk Harris
5 years ago

I dont think its very practical to burn wood to generate electricity. You would deforest on a huge scale that could not be replenished fast enough to maintain a constant supply. This assumes the technology is fool proof which i doubt it can be to capture 99% of the carbon. Heres a sugestion, plant as many trees as possible, when the trees mature, cut them down and plant new ones. The removed trees have the stored carbon, use them for building material, furniture, any use that doesnt release the carbon; the excess can be buried underground for millenia. We still need to remove more excess carbon in the atmosphere with other technologies also.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Joe
4 years ago

Bury them, that’s a good idea, but where? Oh, what about in all those holes where the coal was dug from in the first place. I think they are called mines.

Charles Cartwright
Charles Cartwright
Reply to  Bob
4 years ago

Convert to charcoal first so they don’t decompose.
Then use the charcoal to soak up pollutants, then store forever in old mines.

Charles Cartwright
Charles Cartwright
Reply to  Joe
4 years ago

Use the dead trees to make and sequester carbon in the form of charcoal.
It releases the oxygen, removes the CO2, and allows for very long term storage of the carbon.

John Frawley
John Frawley
Reply to  Joe
3 years ago

near the top of this very article, it is actually discussed,
Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) almost the same process

Thmas amos
Thmas amos
Reply to  Kirk Harris
4 years ago

Charcol is carbon in its rawest form burning it is the same as burning the plants that remove the carbon. It puts it straight back in to the atmosphere.

Charles Cartwright
Charles Cartwright
Reply to  Thmas amos
4 years ago

So don’t burn it.
Use it to absorb pollutants then sequester it in mines.
Each pound of carbon represents 3-2/3 pounds of CO2 removed from the atmosphere.

Charles Cartwright
Charles Cartwright
Reply to  Kirk Harris
4 years ago

An obvious solution.

Kirk H
Kirk H
Reply to  Kirk Harris
3 years ago

Has it been two years since I wrote the above post? As I read through it I realize that I did not acknowledge the good work done by the author of the article. Thank you Renee Cho for your good work. There are a number of options addressed. Some of these seem good to me, some not so good. It is good to see them all gathered together into one document. My discussion of biomass was intended to add to the discussion, not to ignore or criticize Renee’s good work.

Judging from some of the responses, perhaps a better explanation of how biomass gasification works is in order. Biomass gasification is NOT burning wood. Any dry biomass (not just wood) can be gasified. It is heated to 500 to 800 degrees farenheit in a no oxygen atmosphere. The volitiles in the biomass vaporize into a gas with flammable components. The non-volitile part, charcoal, remains behind. Since there is no oxygen, neither the gas nor the charcoal burns. This charcoal is about 99% carbon and 1% minerals which we call ash (needed by plants to survive) and represents about 50% of the carbon in the original biomass. The charcoal can be cooled and saved, thus removing 50% of the carbon in the biomass from the atmosphere, without removing any oxygen. The gas contains easy to burn gasses, mainly CO (partly burned carbon), and also H2 and CH4. Also there are many variations of hydrocarbons, and charcoal particulates in the gas. Modern burning techniques can burn this gas efficently to produce electricity. Another option is to make the hydrocarbons into liquid fuels, thus making carbon neutral transportation fuels. The charcoal is very valuable as well. It is very absorbant and can be used in filters, to absorb toxic spills, as a soil amendment to improve soil quality, as a colorant for tires or paints, as a filler for asphalt and concrete, or it can be sequestered. Unlike biomass left in the forest to rot, releasing its carbon again into the atmosphere, charcoal is very stable and will remain sequestered in the ground for thousands of years.

It is best NOT to cut down live trees for biomass gasification feed stock. California has thousands of acres of dead trees from drought and beetle infestation which can be used and then replaced with new young trees. This also addresses wild fire problems by removing excess fuel from the forests. Agricultural waste such as nut shells or prunings can be used, as can waste wood like broken pallets. Plants such as miscanthus grass and switch grass can be farmed and make excellent fuel. These plants can grow rapidly on marginal soils which cannot support food crops, and so do not displace food crops. Also they enrich the soil over time and eventually convert marginal soils into soil that can support food crops, thus increasing food growing acreage.

All in all, biomass gasification is worthy of a place in our solutions to climate problems, and worthy of being brought into the climate discussion. No other technology that I know of can do what biomass gasification can do.

KH

joyce berry condon
joyce berry condon
5 years ago

What about the individual ? Besides solar panel roofs and electric cars… The sprawling suburbs would reforest naturally in few years if not mowed. The survivalists on you tube are building wind or water turbines out of broken washing machines. Yes, it’s hard to get the individual motivated enough to even vote, but what if we saturated the media with what the individual can do. Remember the Victory Gardens of WW2 ?

buckcameron01@msn.com
buckcameron01@msn.com
4 years ago

It is currently possible to store carbon as a mineral stored below ground. We call it coal. However, we keep digging it up and putting it into the atmosphere. Let’s just leave it where it is at a cost of $0 a ton.

Mohith Shekar
Mohith Shekar
Reply to  buckcameron01@msn.com
4 years ago

yes. just do it

Virginia E Cook
Virginia E Cook
Reply to  buckcameron01@msn.com
2 years ago

the cost is not $0 a ton, it’s the increased cost to provide the same function another way, and that can be high – note I’m not saying we don’t do it, just that the cost is not $0

Richard Hadley
Richard Hadley
4 years ago

I think Scrubbers like the one used in Apollo 13 (Square Filter Round Hole) could be mounted and powered on Lamp Posts in all Major Cities, Also Vacuum type Fan Motors Sucking Air through the Drains and eventually through a Scrubber would help. Just an Idea !

Charles Cartwright
Charles Cartwright
Reply to  Richard Hadley
4 years ago

Plants already do this.
The problem is not just removing the CO2. It is also reclaiming the O2.
Turn plants into charcoal.
Store the charcoal.

Suzanne Gleason
Suzanne Gleason
Reply to  Richard Hadley
3 years ago

Popular Science had some ideas in the 1940s and 50s

Jay
Jay
4 years ago

What would happen if you removed all carbon dioxide from the atmosphere?
All life on the planet would die….

What would happen if you added more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
More plants would grow, end world hunger.

What would happen if the oceans became more acidic?
More coral, plankton, and fish would grow, (Deoxyribonucleic “ACID”) save the coral reefs

What would happen if the planet’s temp increased?
The planet’s temp would decrease (clouds dummy), decrease drought.

Global warming is a farce. Just like global cooling, just like the ozone hole.
No. We will not allow communism.

David Morris
David Morris
Reply to  Jay
4 years ago

Absolute truth. Carbon is the second most important element to life on Earth. Second only to water. Without carbon, the planet is lifeless. This is basic science. For those of you who believe in evolution, the cambrian explosion happened when there was 7,000 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere. There were more plants and animals during that time. Explain that.

Tom
Tom
Reply to  David Morris
4 years ago

But no humans…

Robyn S
Robyn S
Reply to  David Morris
4 years ago

The problem is that it was also a lot hotter. Sure, life exists in higher C02 levels, but the temperature is also higher. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of being cooked from the inside!

Tom
Tom
Reply to  Jay
4 years ago

This might all be true, and the planet will certainly survive. The fact is that human life on earth is only possible within a certain range of CO2 concentration in the air. If capitalism can’t manage this and if you like humans to survive… draw your own conclusion. And if you are so horrified by communism there are certainly other ways we can organise our societies.

Derk Borkent
Derk Borkent
Reply to  Tom
4 years ago

The whole question about the 7000PPM is that with all that heat controlling Co2 in the atmosphere, how could the earth go into an ice age.? Then when Co2 dropped to 180PPM (almost extinction level) it came out of the ice age. Let any scientist or anyone else explain that.

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Derk Borkent
4 years ago

They because there busy trying to line there pockets with other people’s money and not looking at the scientific truth of the matter that’s only my observation.

Anonymous
Anonymous
Reply to  Jay
4 years ago

Carbon Dioxide does promote plant growth, but it also heats up the planet by trapping heat which will in turn damage the plants instead of promoting growth which will result in many consequences. Deoxyribonucleic acid is DNA, which is not an acid that gets created in the ocean if the it becomes more acidic. It is the building block of life but it doesn’t make the water acidic since it is inside an organism. The main type of acid that gets created is Carbonic acid, which gets created when CO2 reacts with salt water. Carbonic acid will increase the acidity of the water and it makes the water corrosive which will damage corals and shellfishes. If the temperature of the planet increased, sure it would make more clouds but you didn’t point out that more clouds mean more storms and possibly stronger since the temperature of the Earth is higher than usual, creating super-cell storms, and many types of stronger severe weather such as flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Places like Arizona or New Mexico, which is mostly dry year round, will not in fact receive more rain. It will receive less rain and have greater droughts and etc. You can’t compare Global Warming to the ozone hole. The ozone hole is repairing itself because us, humans, realized how bad it would be it gets destroyed so we did something about it and allowed the ozone layer to naturally repair itself. Global Warming on the other hand, is actually getting out of hand. Humans are putting so much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that if we don’t do anything right now, it would be too late to do anything. You talk like an very ignorant person. I doubt that you have evidence to even support your claims. I can’t believe an eighth grader, me, can talk more facts than someone like you.

Derk Borkent
Derk Borkent
Reply to  Anonymous
4 years ago

According to NASSA and others the increase of 100 ppm caused the a temperature increase of 1.2°C. So with 7000PPM the temperature would have been, 7000:100=70 70×1.2=84°C. Plus today’s average mean temperature of 14.5°C comes to a nice evolutionary temperature of……….wait for it…….. 98.5°C.
Perhaps Nassa or any of you can clarify this because I don’t think a hell of a lot would grow in that heat let alone develop into an ice age. Pleaaaase explain!

Charles Cartwright
Charles Cartwright
Reply to  Jay
4 years ago

Doesn’t work that way.
Acidic oceans attack the exoskeletons of marine life.

Thmas amos
Thmas amos
4 years ago

Yes plants do remove carbon from the atmosphere but if you burn them youre releasing twice as much back. Smoke contains carbon therefor anything that is burnt is releasing carbon.

Charles Cartwright
Charles Cartwright
Reply to  Thmas amos
4 years ago

True.
If you heat the plant material and make carbon in the form of charcoal. Then sequester the charcoal, you have removed CO2, released O2, and sequestered the carbon in a stable form.

David Morris
David Morris
4 years ago

No. Why? Because there isn’t even a correlation between CO2 and global temps, let alone causation. It is irresponsible and foolish to make such a claim. Water vapor, not CO2, is the prime greenhouse contributor. CO2, due to the facts we have regarding past levels and temps, is not capable of affecting temps.

Robyn S
Robyn S
Reply to  David Morris
4 years ago

Actually, I think you’ll find you’re quite incorrect there. There are plenty of scientific papers out there linking CO2 to increased temperatures – perhaps you should read some of them. It’s not just CO2, though, there are other gases as well. But to discount CO2 from causing a rise in global temperatures is utterly foolish.
Perhaps this quote from the below link might put it in perspective for you: “We see no examples in the ice core record of a major increase in CO2 that was not accompanied by an increase in temperature.”
And the link: https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/

Randall DeWitt
Randall DeWitt
4 years ago

I am very proud of our planets scientists and their progress in making many new discoveries. But there are still those things that simply get to little attention, thereby gain little understanding. Like mankind’s direct aquatic thermal contribution into the oceans that have an inwards direction of conduction. Resulting in that contribution accumulating. My own research suggests that it is this other large human contribution that is directly linked to the rapid decline of the Arctic and not the CO2’s, though I agree that they are also a very troubling contributing factor.
My findings strongly suggest that the rapid decline of the planetary ice is not due to temperature, but rather due to the neutralization of the Arctic oceans fragile inwards conduction value, which is extremely vulnerable to such from tainted Atlantic currents that are heavier, thus they flow under the lighter colder surface waters releasing there thermal contamination upwards.
The oceans natural downwards conduction value, created by the sun warming the surface layer, is the key protective feature that slows the normal rate of ice melt by a multiple of twelve. It is this key conductive feature that has been removed triggering the rapid melt off that has stumped scientists. It can be restored, simply by removing the thermal contamination from the planets polar regions. The oceans themselves provide a cost effective solution that oil rig experts can help us to accomplish. The goal is to vent natural aquatic thermal sources from the ocean floor to compensate for mankind’s unnatural thermal contribution into the waters.

Thermal vents and stable volcanoes can produce large amounts of electricity, fresh water, and valuable minerals. All of which can be sold or used to pay for this much needed investment, which can stop sea level rise in its tracks. But what we really need to understand is that lost snowpack also means reduced annual cooling potential needed to confront the planets annual warming potential. Meaning the more cooling potential we lose, the more we we have to compensate for, which means venting off more aquatic thermal vents.
So the sooner we get started, the better.

Bill
Bill
Reply to  Randall DeWitt
4 years ago

And how have we thermally contaminated the planet’s polar regions? What are these unnatural thermal contributions? Are cities in the polar regions pumping warm water into the oceans in large amounts? Please explain.

Randall DeWitt
Randall DeWitt
4 years ago

The realistic answer to this question is “no”. Not saying that carbon reduction isn’t important. But because the rapid decline of the Arctic and subsequent sea level rise are two of the most pressing CC factors, which scientists suggests are not linked to the increased levels of carbon, but rather are the result of aquatic thermal contamination from mankind’s direct aquatic thermal contamination that has spread into the planets polar regions, neutralizing or altering normal conduction values.

Atari
Atari
Reply to  Randall DeWitt
2 years ago

People who thumb down the reply without any supporting facts is the indication that they don’t want to discuss the topic if it makes them uncomfortable about what they believe in, even if they have no facts to support what they believe in. They just thumb down something and that makes them feel better. I would rather see a healthy discussion.

Randall DeWitt
Randall DeWitt
4 years ago

As the planet loses more and more of the ancient snow packs and deep water ice that took millions of year to form under normal aquatic conduction conditions. The planet loses more annual cooling potential that those features provided, which is needed to confront the planets annual warming potential to help maintain a healthy thermal balance. This is where the real tipping point or point of no return exists. Humanity can compensate by harvesting and venting off natural thermal sources from the ocean floor to compensate. But the longer we wait, the greater the investment will be needed.
The up side is that these aquatic thermal vents can produce large amounts of electricity, produce fresh water, and valuable minerals that an all offset the cost of this vital investment.
Aquatic vents produce water that is at temperatures above 750 degrees that will instantly boil and turn to steam when brought towards the surface.
Japan has a stable undersea volcano close by that would be a huge benefit to Japan’s economy, and would compensate for much, if not all of it’s thermal contribution into the oceans by harvesting and venting this natural resourse.

Randall DeWitt
Randall DeWitt
4 years ago

Though reducing greenhouse gases is a good thing, such efforts will not slow the rapid decline of the Arctic nor Antarctic snow packs. Thus doing so will not effect sea level rise either. Nor will it reduce the increased size of the storms coming in off of the oceans, because the increased levels of atmospheric carbon is not responsible for the warming up of the ocean waters, as much as has been wrongly suggested by some in the science community. Humanity is also contributing massive volumes of thermal contamination directly into the oceans each and every day. Into oceans that have a predominant inwards direction of conduction, which traps this human contribution below the level of the solar heated surface layer, to be added to that being provided by the sun and planet surface. It is this human contribution that has accumulated and spread thermal energy into the polar regions where it has triggered the rapid rate of decline of the polar ice and snow packs. An event that has stumped and shocked those scientists investigating this very alarming condition.

After the so called experts openly as admitted that the rate of decline was over ten times their own CO2 related predictions, which I confirmed was accurate. I then duplicated that very same rapid rate of decline, by introducing the very same conduction values to my experiments that I felt were most likely being altered by this unnatural introduction of thermal contamination into the polar regions.

Trouble is; I have no collage degree to cause those with influence to listen to me. Yet, they are still listening to those that admitted that they had it wrong and still to this day are unsure of exactly what is happening.

The sun warming the surface waters of the ocean produces an inwards or downwards direction of conduction. Remember heat or thermal energy transfers to cold. This conductive feature is naturally very weak and fragile within the polar regions. Thereby threatened by increased levels of thermal energy. Not on the surface, but below the solar heated surface layer, which is exactly where the Atlantic currents go. The Atlantic waters are saltier than the Arctic waters, thus they naturally dive down and flow under them. If the Atlantic currents are tainted with thermal contamination, as they are, they carry that thermal contamination under the lighter and potentially colder surface waters, causing that thermal contamination to rise upwards, thereby neutralizing that key protective conductive feature that normally slows the rate of ice melt with its presence. This is what instantly triggers such a rapid rate of decline. Not temperature increases.

Randall DeWitt
Randall DeWitt
4 years ago

While we focus upon things like carbon extraction methods and such, the planet continues to lose volumes of anceint snow pack that took millions of years to reach their depth. We need to be focused on stopping that rapid decline as quickly as possible, because it produces an annual cooling potential that we cannot replace in a thousand life times. The more the planet loses the more we will have to compensate for, or learn to live with the warming that follows.

There is only one cost effective way to reverse this condition of rapid ice melt, which is to restore the normal conduction value to the oceans within the polar regions. We can do this by creating policies that reduce our direct global thermal contribution into the waters, while investing in global efforts to extract natural sources of thermal energy from the oceans to help quickly compensate for that which humanity cannot quickly reduce.
Think of the massive volume of thermal energy that a single under water volcano contributes to the waters. The fact that thermal vents and volcanoes produce water temperatures above 750 degrees makes it easy to understand how such efforts can be made cost effective. They can produce large volumes of electricity, fresh water, and valuable minerals. All of which humanity can use.

Randall DeWitt
Randall DeWitt
4 years ago

“No” it cannot. Because removing carbon from the atmosphere will not remove the thermal contamination from the oceans. Nor will it compensate for its negative effects.
Only the venting off of natural aquatic thermal vents and undersea volcanoes can accomplish this task.

Howard Crivello
Howard Crivello
4 years ago

The problem with sequestering CO2 is the fact that you are sequestering twice as much Oxygen. Cyanobacteria got rid of an atmosphere of almost all CO2 3 billion years ago. Why not use it again. Grow Cyanobacteria in ponds near every power plant ( all power plants except nuclear, produce CO2) and capture the CO2 and use it to grow the Cyanobacteria. It takes in 6 CO2 and 6 H2O to produce a sugar and it releases 3 O2’s into the atmosphere. And then dry the sugar and store it or use it as needed. Fish farms will buy it. Look at all the cyanobacteria slime that appears in every lake, river and stream in the entire world. Google “blue green algae” to see what it does in Florida. Cyanobacteria grows very fast. We have to be careful, we may lower the CO2 level below what plants need.

Ellto
Ellto
4 years ago

Many Billionaires will and should get involved with Carbon Capture Fake Trees, Amazons Around the world can use these trees starting in this decade while planting young trees have time to catch up. Billionaires will benefit economically in that area if they lend the resources to make buy and position these trees, it will be a win win for the Environment and Business.

Charles Cartwright
Charles Cartwright
4 years ago

Why not sequester charcoal.
It results in the removal of the carbon dioxide and just as importantly, the release of the oxygen.
Fill former coal mines with charcoal.
The plants will grow and capture more CO2. The carbon will be captured and stored as stable carbon.
Problem solved.

Mohith Shekar
Mohith Shekar
4 years ago

like why should people use gas-powered cars? Just move to electric. Use wind power instead of fossil fuels and etc. #rebirth

John
John
4 years ago

An article from Columbia you would think sources behind the data would be listed. US Forests absorb 13% of carbon emissions…..says who? Anyone can write anything. Post the data…

Phil
Phil
4 years ago

An idea is to make wooden rafts that float free on the ocean and pick-up shell-fish colonies which grow and store CO2 in their shells. After a time the rafts would rot and sink taking the shells to to bottom of the ocean for long term capture of CO2. Rafts could be designed to be simple and low cost and optimised for maximum shellfish growth. Of course millions of rafts would be needed.

Derek
Derek
4 years ago

In a word No!…… In four words,.. Not a sh*t show!…

Andrew
Andrew
4 years ago

I would you find most of the calculations are incorrect because if there much co2 would not be alive nor talking about it correct me but an over fluctuations of co2 we would a-fixated another words we should all be dead right know and where not

John L Trujillo, Professor Emeritus, Biochemistry
John L Trujillo, Professor Emeritus, Biochemistry
4 years ago

I have a plan that will detail how man can reverse climate change and control weather. The solution is sixty four miles away. The question is, can it be built? I have given this notion a great deal of thought. I have bounced the idea with three climatologists and have not heard from either.

Tim
Tim

Why not subject your plans and thoughts to a peer review journal process and all the scrutiny that entails to flush it out?

Michael Ziman
Michael Ziman
4 years ago

I want to see the feasability of using a homes HVAC into a carbon capture device. I am looking to assemble a team that can help me achieve this. Any chemists, engineers, or other specialists, please email me. We are basing our concept based on new technology out of AU that can sequester carbon on Liquid Metal Alloys at room temps.

Adrian
Adrian
4 years ago

injecting co2 into anything for storage in my humble opinion is DUMB so we burn carbon with our precious o2 from the atmosphere before storing carbon anywhere we need to recollect our O’s out of co2… think if we were to inject massive scale of oxigen with that carbon what would sustain the next combustions and breathing for that matter.

Simon barnes
Simon barnes
3 years ago

Electro geo chemistry sounds very promising, could be a winner all round ? How long before this is or is it in use?

Balter
Balter
3 years ago

Below 200 ppm the trees die. We have just come through eight months of unprecedented reduction in human emissions: not a blip on atmospheric carbon dioxide, Mauna Loa ESRL claims CO2 actually went up. Sure did a number on the economy though.

Weldon Beauchamp
3 years ago

CO2 can be injected into thermal rock which is hot. The CO2 transfers the heat 5-10 times better than water and the superheated gas formed by the CO2 +heat, can be used to drive an electric turbine. This is a form of enhanced geothermal energy (EGS). This is a green, renewable energy that is generating power 24/7 unlike wind and solar. The cost of extracting the CO2 (Carbon Engineering) is between $100-300/metric ton. IN the case of geothermal energy, using CO2 as a working fluid is more expensive than water, but the gain in heat using CO2 allows for much greater power output than with thermal water alone. The higher cost of using CO2 results in greater power output and profit which covers the cost of the CO2 direct air extraction. A win win scenario….

Greg
Greg
3 years ago

Could the greenhouse gasses be sucked up into the vacuum of space via satellites designed for that purpose?

in the name of Science
in the name of Science
3 years ago

plants eat carbon… in fact in prehistoric ages there was 12,800PPM of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere; the plants eat carbon to give off oxygen… no carbon = no oxygen. and since we only have 409.8PPM in our atmosphere technically the Earth is in a Carbon Famine; if there is no Carbon, there is no crops, and if there is no crops there is no oxygen or food which is really bad; all life on this planet will cease to exist if we reach zero atmospherics carbon.

Sarah Fecht
Reply to  in the name of Science
3 years ago

Yeah, no one is saying we need to remove every molecule of CO2 from the sky. It’s about restoring the balance that existed before humans started burning fossil fuels.

Nigel Howard
3 years ago

Seed the oceans – where CO2 is 13 times more concentrated with ground basalt – the mineral absorbs CO2 settles out as a carbonate permanently. The oceans will then dissolve more CO2 from the atmosphere – BINGO. Ocean currents do the hard work of distributing the effect. Added benefit is raising ocean pH benefitting coral and crustaceans. Its also much cheaper than any other method and has MUCH bigger potential because there’s much more CO2 in the oceans than in the atmosphere. This can work at the scale needed – reafforestation and terrestrial drawdown can’t. It needs proper research.

Dr. Ken Towe
Dr. Ken Towe
Reply to  Nigel Howard
3 years ago

Nigel…the problem with seeding the oceans is the amounts needed. The carbonate-secreting algae are trivial compared to the rest and even the coccolith cellular materials are recycled by the oxygen they helped create. Thus, the net amount of CO2 captured is small and must survive long term burial below the carbonate compensation depth in the open oceans. That’s why the idea of seeding with iron failed. It encouraged diatom growth but diatoms are silica and that has no carbon. Neither do all other algae except the coccoliths.

Dr. Ken Towe
Dr. Ken Towe
3 years ago

Those intent on capturing CO2 quantitatively in large enough amounts to make a difference to the climate need to understand that CO2 weighs a lot. One ppm, by mass, is 7,800 million tons. To return the atmosphere to 350 ppm (Hansen/McKibben goal) would require the geological burial of 500 BILLION tons. Let that sink in. Visualize that amount as a pile of dry ice left to sublimate unless kept frozen.

Alexey Turchin
Alexey Turchin
3 years ago

One more idea is injecting air deep in the oceans. Oceans store 100 times more CO2 than atmosphere, but most of the ocean’s mass is not in contact with atmosphere, and didn’t reach yet equilibrium with new levels of CO2 in it. After it will reach equilibrium, it will be 282 ppm again, but it will take thousands of years. Acidification is the problem of only the upper level of the oceans which mixes very slowly with deeper level. Oceans anyway take one third of our CO2 emissions and are natural sink. So we need inject air, CO2 or water from upper level in the deeper parts of the ocean, or take the water from lower levels up.

kostas hunt
kostas hunt
3 years ago

i was here for science class but… yall are smart

Dominique R. Lamb
Dominique R. Lamb
3 years ago

So I have a suggestion: for Mr. Elon Musk or anyone else; please consider investing in ANYTHING that can help industries around the world to stop destroying marshes and wetlands. These areas definitely help reduce overall Co2 in the air and they can also contribute (massively and safely) to the economies surrounding them. The entire US coastal area can be one GIANT Co2 filter if we supported these areas properly.
I understand that industry must exist but they can do a better job of contributing to the cycles of use formula that everyone should be focusing on now.

I mentioned Mr. Musk because he just announced his prize offering for the best Co2 removal invention…
I just thought that we could work on several negative issues at once by focusing efforts to support wetland renewal and sustainability, then watch Mother Nature do what she does best…
Thanks for reading my reply on your interesting article.
Please leave thoughts…
D.R. Lamb

Jim McLaren
Jim McLaren
Reply to  Dominique R. Lamb
3 years ago

Right on Mr Lamb. Mother Nature can do the job. Subdividing my home lot in Victoria, Bc. Building three houses including a greenhouse to sequester the co2 Expect to be all carbon negative when finished. Have a good one.
Ps the houses will be built to a passive construction code utilizing solar panels including a hydrogen generator to extract excessive carbon dioxide. Tryst I am on the right track.

Aubrey
Aubrey
3 years ago

Overpopulation must be addressed. Food production will need to increase 70% by 2050!!..to accomodate population increase. When land mammals, ocean life, and Forrest mass begin attrition, you know the planet can’t keep up. Attrition of all of the above began more than 75 years ago! Why are we not talking about this within the context of discussions like these? Every environmental “challenge” is associated with a very much too large human population. Forrest loss, trash in oceans, loss of ocean biomass, global warming, desertification, loss of arable land, shortages of potable water. Did I miss a few?

Vic Groves
2 years ago

The basic answer to the entire problem is reduce the size of the human race so the eco system this able to absorb the amount of CO2 produced, it was once able to do so.
We have continually saved the human race (vaccines, heart operations, save the starving, it never ends), we are destroying our own planet and being hypocritical.
WE ARE THE PROBLEM.

Shelly Hansen
Shelly Hansen
2 years ago

I’m certainly not an expert and I’m not being a jerk,… But suck out whatever is harmful and send it to Mars Where the elite are seeking to go after robbing all of us of the funds to do so and then leaving the rest of us to perish. Buy time for the next generation while we get solar power, e cars, reforestation, building w alternate materials, the stoppage of ‘industrial’ plants, wind combines, etc under control.

James
James
2 years ago

Obviously continue down the road of electricfication.

It has also become politizied. As far as power generation…and this should totally de-politize it. Keep driving forward with alternative energy BUT, back it up with natural gas fired energy or nuclear. The conventional energy can only be used when the alternative cannnot meet demand…it stays on standby. Its also time to bury our powerlines under a far right”recharging lane” so that recharging can occur WHILE DRIVING….the EMF field always exists when a current flows.

All nations need to start pledging LAND….especially desert land….and we need to plant trees everywhere…100 billion for starters. They should be planted in a way that faciltates fire surpression…to include a fleet of 747 supertankers for quick suppression if needed.

Its time to park the military….and take care of people otherwise theres nothing to win.
BE GOOD STEWARDS OF EARTH…(the boss says so:)

Peace.

Ralph Mlaska
2 years ago

Trees require management, we all seen the results of bad management in the southwest huge forest fires and those in Australia, rain forest destruction, run off of fertilizers in water ways and oceans.
As much the fault of bad management as Gobal warming. can not just plant trees and hope for the best. Human attitude has to change.

Atari
Atari
2 years ago

How about someone actually takes a CO2 sensor and perform different experiments at different places at different hours at different heights with and without contained plants to calculate emissions, etc? All we talk is just theories without observable numbers. And somebody explain to me why do we need to set any new sensor to 400 ppm outside and not, say, 150? By setting a CO2 sensor initially to 400, isn’t it like getting absolute amount instead of actual amount of CO2? If you take a sensor from the box and it shows 150 ppm, and then you set it to 400 ppm, how that makes its values accurate?

joy
joy
1 year ago

Hello. I just wanted to say as a layperson interested in these matters this article is the best clearest one I’ve read and well written keeping me reading every line. I’ve learned a lot from this. Thank you very much.