Breakthrough? Scientists devise way to pull carbon from the atmosphere

Via Conservative Punk, it’s a few months old but potentially significant enough to earn a belated link, especially since (for once) the credentials of the people involved are solid.

The prototype so-called scrubber will be small enough to fit inside a shipping container. Lackner estimates it will initially cost around £100,000 to build, but the carbon cost of making each device would be “small potatoes” compared with the amount each would capture, he said.

The scientists stress their invention is not a magic bullet to solve climate change. It would take millions of the devices to soak up the world’s carbon emissions, and the CO2 trapped would still need to be disposed of. But the team says the technology may be the best way to avert dangerous temperature rises, as fossil fuel use is predicted to increase sharply in coming decades despite international efforts…

He added: “Our project has reached the stage where it is quite clear we can do it. We need to start dealing with all these emissions. I’d rather have a technology that allows us to use fossil fuels without destroying the planet, because people are going to use them anyway.”

The breakthrough, if I understand it correctly, lies not in capturing the carbon dioxide but in disposing of it. Until now, the energy involved in processing it from the scrubber made the device prohibitively inefficient; now, thanks to some voodoo involving humidity changes, they can do it with one-tenth the amount. Even better: “The patent suggests the scrubber could be connected to greenhouses, where the CO2 would boost plant growth. Or the gas could be used to grow algae, for food, fertiliser or fuel. The latter could ‘close the carbon loop,’ Lackner said.”

Coming soon to a liberal bumper sticker near you: We can’t carbon-suck our way out of this problem. Think I’m kidding? Via Conservative Punk again, go see what Greenpeace et al. think of the device. In so many words, it’s simply not a punitive enough solution.