Sucking CO2
June 9, 2008 6:08 AM   Subscribe

Sucking CO2 out of the air has long been a holy grail for solving global warming; Richard Branson has promised $25m to anyone who succeeds. Of course it's already been done, but the amount of energy required doesn't make it net carbon positive. Now a team in Arizona, led by Klaus Lacknet under the company of Global Research Technologies, says it has made a significant breakthrough that massively reduces the amount of energy required - the "project has reached the stage where it is quite clear we can do it." The planned prototype, which will be finished in two years, will cost $200,000 USD, be smaller than a shipping container and be capable of eliminating around 1 ton of CO2. Even if it works many hurdles remain but it portends a cooler future for air-capture technology.
posted by stbalbach (76 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good job planting the seeds of an idea and I'm probably not going out on a limb when I hope it takes root and branches out, rather than having a bark worse than its bite.
posted by DU at 6:14 AM on June 9, 2008 [13 favorites]


I think they're barking up the wrong tree.
posted by Floydd at 6:19 AM on June 9, 2008


I'm going to patent a device which is going to be revolutionary: a carbon-positive, solar-powered air-capture robot which is lightweight, portable, self-installing and self replicating. It will also provide food as a by-product.

It'll be called "Self Energizing Enthropy-negative Device", or S.E.E.D., for short.

No doubt, Branson will be interested.
posted by _dario at 6:20 AM on June 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


"A technical solution may be defined as one that requires a change only in the techniques of the natural sciences, demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values or ideas of morality."

- Garreth Hardin, The Tragedy Of The Commons, 1968
posted by mhoye at 6:21 AM on June 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


...and be capable of eliminating around 1 ton [a day] of CO2.
posted by furtive at 6:26 AM on June 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


The team is working to build a prototype at a laboratory in Tuscon, Arizona.

A major UK paper can't even use a spell checker? As someone who used to live there this was always one of my pet peeves.
posted by tinkertown at 6:29 AM on June 9, 2008


Snarking aside, we're seriously talking about the equivalent of 1 acre of pine trees? Could that possibly cost more than $200K?
posted by butterstick at 6:30 AM on June 9, 2008


Oh thanks furtive. That's a rather glaring ommission.
posted by butterstick at 6:30 AM on June 9, 2008


Nothing says "vapourware" like an original, non-generic company name!

Global Research Technologies

... hmmm
posted by uncle harold at 6:30 AM on June 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


See, you've all missed the point. It's not sequestering if your going to turn around & use them! But, if we paid $200k to keep carbon in a box, well we're damn well going to keep it there!
posted by jeffburdges at 6:33 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Screw going on a diet, let's just invent a nice liposuction machine.
posted by adipocere at 6:40 AM on June 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Good job planting the seeds of an idea and I'm probably not going out on a limb when I hope it takes root and branches out, rather than having a bark worse than its bite.

I can see you're a going to be a hard nut about this project, regardless of whether these ivy leaguers' efforts turn over a new leaf or wither on the vine. But that's good, seeing that Branson might not be counted to weed out any foreseeable grove of shortcomings.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:53 AM on June 9, 2008


Snarking aside, we're seriously talking about the equivalent of 1 acre of pine trees? Could that possibly cost more than $200K?

What are you people talking about? Planting trees (outside of the tropics) only stores CO2 temporally, eventually the trees die, the wood rots, and the carbon is re-released. Obviously if you plant new forests, they'll soak up CO2 for a while but eventually it's just going to be re-released.
The further you move from the equator, though, these gains are eroded; and the team's modelling predicts that planting more trees in mid- and high-latitude locations could lead to a net warming of a few degrees by the year 2100.
Also, does this device pull CO2 out of the air, or is it some kind of scrubber placed on exhaust outputs from large power plants? I heard about this before, and I thought it was something that would be installed on already existing CO2 sources, not something that would just pull it out of normal air.
posted by delmoi at 7:03 AM on June 9, 2008


This machine sucks. They will reap what they sow.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:06 AM on June 9, 2008


I've read the article and I think this machine sucks.
posted by chillmost at 7:06 AM on June 9, 2008


Branson could just ground a plane or two.
posted by mattoxic at 7:20 AM on June 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Here's a use I see for it:

1) Suck 1 ton of Carbondioxide out of the atmosphere a day.
2) Use the carbon to manufacture pencil leads.
3) ????
4) Profit!!!

Or... alternatively we could become just like Druidia.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 7:20 AM on June 9, 2008


I'd feel better about spending massive amounts to cool the earth if someone could just point out where the thermostat should be set. Because it seems to me like it's been fairly variable, all the way from deep-freeze to semi-sauna, and just because WE find this temperature tolerable doesn't mean we're supposed to lock it down and never let it change.

(I also think it real suspicious that Al Gore just "happened" to have a solution to the problem he popularized, that would just happen to net him a lot of $$$ - but then, I'm suspicous of snake oil salesmen in general - my dad's got way too much junk mail of various sorts promising big returns on investments, miracle cures and all that...)
posted by JB71 at 7:22 AM on June 9, 2008


It's already easy to get a hold of CO2 enriched air: flue gas at power plants. The problem is then what you do with it. How do you transport it to its sequestration location? A key parameter is how good this machine is at concentrating CO2 in its output gas. Is the result 10%, 50%, 80% CO2?

He suggests using the CO2 enriched air for enhanced plant growth, but there are two obvious issues with that. First is that with many plants, the an optimum CO2 concentration is less than one percent. Second, is that the cost of carbon sequestration with the device is whatever marginal increase the machine has on the activity of the plants. This is a very different calculation than saying $200,000 for 1 ton/day. Would it really be more cost effective to have this machine going than just to capture flue gas and build more greenhouses/algae farms? I am very skeptical that it is better to 1) release CO2 into air 2) build machine 3) run machine to recapture CO2 [requires energy] 4) pump CO2 enriched air to plants than 1) pump CO2 enriched air to plants.

Sure, the indirect capture application makes sense for distributed sources which can't easily be directly captured, but we've got all these coal/natural gas sources to deal with first.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:23 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Screw going on a diet, let's just invent a nice liposuction machine.

Well, yes. When going on a diet is obviously not going to happen, a liposuction machine sounds like a rather a good idea compared to the alternative of sitting here and wringing our hands about it.
posted by matthewr at 7:24 AM on June 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I also think it real suspicious that Al Gore just "happened" to have a solution to the problem he popularized, that would just happen to net him a lot of $$$

What the hell are you talking about? How would gore make a ton of money off of Carbon Taxes or cap and trade systems? If you think the only reason people belive in Global warming is because of Al Gore, you're pretty much an idiot.

Well, yes. When going on a diet is obviously not going to happen, a liposuction machine sounds like a rather a good idea compared to the alternative of sitting here and wringing our hands about it.

No kidding. Some people here seem to be relishing the idea of a major sacrifice in order to solve global warming, but if turns out not to be necessary, it's not going to happen.
posted by delmoi at 7:35 AM on June 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'd feel better about spending massive amounts to cool the earth if someone could just point out where the thermostat should be set. Because it seems to me like it's been fairly variable, all the way from deep-freeze to semi-sauna, and just because WE find this temperature tolerable doesn't mean we're supposed to lock it down and never let it change.

Have you been asleep for the past 20 years?
posted by DU at 7:42 AM on June 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


MY GOD ... IT'S FULL OF ... CHARD!
posted by davemee at 7:43 AM on June 9, 2008


tinkertown writes "A major UK paper can't even use a spell checker? As someone who used to live there this was always one of my pet peeves."

Spell checkers tend to fail on proper names. Even if it is smart enough to tag Tuscon and not Tucson (FF's isn't) people just assume Tuscon is a false positive because it's a proper name.
posted by Mitheral at 7:44 AM on June 9, 2008


A scale point: the US release of CO2 for electricity generation is 2328 million tons/year as of 2006. That would require 6.4 million of these devices, which would come to $1.3 trillion dollars of capital expenses alone, about 10% of the US GDP. Total US CO2 emissions would come to $2.8 trillion. I'm curious how much they cost to operate and actually dispose of the CO2 that they purify.

This does not fit the description of without major sacrifice. There's probably economy of scale on the building of them, but probably the opposite on disposal of the gas (a fixed number of easy disposal sites, perhaps).
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:53 AM on June 9, 2008


Oops, I plugged in an wrong number. For total US emissions it should be $3.3 trillion, about 25% of GDP.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:56 AM on June 9, 2008


An wrong number indeed. I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:57 AM on June 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


it seems to me like it's been fairly variable

Of course, but the only time frame that really matters, for the purposes of safety, is the past 3 to 4 thousand years, when humans dominated the planet in large numbers. It's not like we can all go live in Siberia if things get too hot. During the past 3-4 years, when human global civilization arose, CO2 levels have been pretty stable and un-variable, but since the start of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels have increased 40% - so obviously the goal would be to return to the stable pre-IR level.
posted by stbalbach at 8:08 AM on June 9, 2008


What are you people talking about? Planting trees (outside of the tropics) only stores CO2 temporally, eventually the trees die, the wood rots, and the carbon is re-released.

Cut down the trees before they rot and release their carbon and turn them into furniture, houses, totem poles in which the carbon continues to be stored.
posted by notyou at 8:12 AM on June 9, 2008


It seems like a lot of people are missing the point of this. It's a scrubber, for power plant emissions and the like, not just something you dot across the landscape like trees. Planting trees in a coal-fired power plant's smokestack doesn't tend to have the desired CO2 absorptive effect.

Now the meat robot above points out that there's some economic problems that remain here. But that is with the somewhat excessive assumption that we'll be deploying these everywhere in an attempt to absorb all of our emissions. I don't think thta's reasonable. Much more likely is that this kind of technology would become mandatory for new power generators, and I'm thinking especially of coal here.

It doesn't seem fruitless to me to come up with a way for all new coal-fired power plants to be made carbon-neutral. In fact, if it could be done, it seems like a fairly big win in any effort to reduce overall emissions.

Time will tell whether this is that, though.
posted by rusty at 8:18 AM on June 9, 2008


25% of GDP

Ok let's assume the costs as given and no economy of scale or other cost savings through efficiency gains (which should help balance out the lack of numbers for disposal cost). 25% of GDP is a one-time cost, not yearly, so if you ramp up over 25 years that would be 1% of GDP each year. Considering GDP grows each year by..4 to 5%.. by the end of the 25 year period it would be a lot less than 1% (I don't know the formula for figuring it out). It's really not a "major sacrifice", most people wouldn't even notice, just another line on the spreadsheet.
posted by stbalbach at 8:19 AM on June 9, 2008


It seems like a lot of people are missing the point of this. It's a scrubber, for power plant emissions and the like

No, it's not. Read the third link.
posted by stbalbach at 8:20 AM on June 9, 2008


I am just going to have tons of kids. Each kid will sequester several pounds of carbon. If everyone in the world vows to have 8 or 10 kids, our problems will all be solved!
posted by Mister_A at 8:23 AM on June 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


What are you people talking about? Planting trees (outside of the tropics) only stores CO2 temporally, eventually the trees die, the wood rots, and the carbon is re-released.

It doesn't take a genius to see that if you grow a tract of woodland, it will sequester X amount of carbon, as new trees will spring up where old ones die. I think it's a rather nice way to store carbon - certainly more attractive than a tank of CO2.
posted by SciencePunk at 8:30 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It doesn't take a genius to see that if you grow a tract of woodland, it will sequester X amount of carbon...

Unfortunately, even the low bar of "not a genius" is too high for some science deniers.
posted by DU at 8:33 AM on June 9, 2008


I am just going to have tons of kids. Each kid will sequester several pounds of carbon. If everyone in the world vows to have 8 or 10 kids, our problems will all be solved!

That is what I was thinking. I can't believe there is not more discussion about population growth.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:34 AM on June 9, 2008


What are you people talking about? Planting trees (outside of the tropics) only stores CO2 temporally, eventually the trees die, the wood rots, and the carbon is re-released.

Exactly, that is why I prefer them to just burn all the trees off of the land before they begin development on it. No rotting wood, no CO2 is released. No equipment to cut and haul the trees out. Lastly the smoke from the fire partially blots out the sun which helps fight global warming.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:42 AM on June 9, 2008


DU at 7:42 AM - "Have you been asleep for the past 20 years?"

No. In the '70s, the concern was we'd be nuts-deep in an ice age by 2000. The trend was towards COOLER climes then, with associated famines as crop-growing areas got froze out.

It didn't happen.

Now the concern is about WARMING. Or, variably, 'Climate Change' - which can be used to lambast whoever/whatever over any variation (up or down) from some mythical ideal point which never seems to be specified.

Re Al Gore's profit motive - he's on the 'advisory panel' for a company that sells carbon offsets - Generation Investment Management. So he stands to profit from global warming hype and the panic-buying of snake-oil remediation schemes. (And if he were a Republican with such a connection, you'd be laughing off the whole idea of global warming as an obvious scam.)

Re Warming - NOAA says this was a colder spring than normal, .7F below the 20th Century mean. Solar sunspot cycle 24 is late in starting, indicating a very possible solar cooling trend. And an icebreaker got trapped in arctic sea ice that wasn't supposed to be there.

Now, I DO believe in anthropogenic global warming - but the Ruddiman version. It started 8,000 years back when we invented agriculture, and if it weren't for it, we'd be about at the bottom of a cold cycle at this point, since a number of natural cycles have coincided and should be chilling us down.

But I wouldn't see a glaciated Canada as an improvement.
posted by JB71 at 8:42 AM on June 9, 2008


In the '70s, the concern was we'd be nuts-deep in an ice age by 2000.....Now the concern is about WARMING.

So the answer is yes, you've been asleep.
posted by DU at 8:53 AM on June 9, 2008


For anyone interested in a contrarian viewpoint on anthropogenic global warming, I present this link. Fairly long but I think it is well worth the time, especially if you are of the "there is nothing to debate, the science is settled" persuasion.

I would really like to hear what, if anything, the authors get wrong.
posted by Eco at 9:00 AM on June 9, 2008


This box? It sucks? and vibrates?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:11 AM on June 9, 2008


stbalbach: I read the third link (and read it again, to check). I don't see where it specifies that this can't be used for emission scrubbing. What'd I miss?
posted by rusty at 9:22 AM on June 9, 2008


That is what I was thinking. I can't believe there is not more discussion about population growth.

You think 'addicted to oil' is a tough nut to crack? Try addicted to procreation.
posted by duncan42 at 9:24 AM on June 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


For anyone interested in a contrarian viewpoint on anthropogenic global warming, I present this link.

No, but thanks anyway:

So the Great Global Warming Hoax could have a unintended positive side in energy conservation, and even Hitler made the trains run on time in Nazi Germany.

The writer doesn't even appear able to read a basic graph properly:

Of course, the actual data shows just the opposite - that CO2 lags, not leads temperature, and thus "proving" just the opposite.

which immediately leads me to suspect the rest of his citations and the conclusions he derives thereof.

Part of the problem I also have is with smug, ignorant commenters like Mr. "Al Gore's profit motive", as if I take my cues on what and how to think about the environment from Al Gore.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:30 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Remember when interest in the environment had more than one component? When there were reasons to reduce/reuse/recycle that didn't rest on a single claim about an incredibly complex system? Ah, it's so much simpler now. Oops, got to run - I have to pay my carbon-neutral offset fee and drive my SUV to wal-mart to buy this week's crate of bottled water and green laundry soap.
posted by freebird at 9:34 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


A CO2 sucking comparison between this machine and trees should consider that a tree might absorb CO2 on the order of 0.5 to 5 tons in it's lifetime, and you might have three trees occupy the space this machine would fill.

So, in no more than two weeks the machine could absorb as much CO2 as that area could absorb if it was covered in trees for, say, 75 years.

While the machine might not be THE solution, it certainly sounds like a promising part of A solution to CO2 in the atmosphere (with the question about what to DO with the 1 ton of CO2 per day needing to be addressed somehow).
posted by gspm at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2008


"Hey, our Big Engineering approach to building civilizations is catching up with us! We've made a mess!"

"Oh no, what will be do?"

"Never fear, we can solve our problems with...Big Engineering!"

"What could possibly go wrong? Yay!"
posted by freebird at 9:44 AM on June 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


What are you people talking about? Planting trees (outside of the tropics) only stores CO2 temporally, eventually the trees die, the wood rots, and the carbon is re-released. Obviously if you plant new forests, they'll soak up CO2 for a while but eventually it's just going to be re-released.

Finally, someone speaks the truth. All that oil in the ground isn't carbon deposited from millions of years of dead plants dogpiling on top of each other. Topsoil is a scam designed to deceive. The oil was put there by Jesus so the UAW could build trucks and Coors Light could be invented.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:50 AM on June 9, 2008


I don't see where it specifies that this can't be used for emission scrubbing. What'd I miss?

It's not designed or made for that purpose. "Air capture", by definition, means capturing the CO2 from ambient temperature air. "Stationary carbon capture" is CO2 from the hot exhaust of a power plant. There are already existing stationary carbon capture technologies that do a better job than this one. The FAQ has more information.
posted by stbalbach at 9:53 AM on June 9, 2008


Part of the problem I also have is with smug, ignorant commenters like Mr. "Al Gore's profit motive", as if I take my cues on what and how to think about the environment from Al Gore.

Yeah. And the part about the genius of the American system residing in its ability* to channel self-interest (profit motive!) toward providing for the general welfare.

People should profit by doing good.


--------------------
*Not always 100% effective. True men can but try.
posted by notyou at 9:58 AM on June 9, 2008


The writer doesn't even appear able to read a basic graph properly

You're right, he's got that bit the wrong way around.
posted by Eco at 10:01 AM on June 9, 2008


It seems like a lot of people are missing the point of this. It's a scrubber, for power plant emissions and the like, not just something you dot across the landscape like trees. Planting trees in a coal-fired power plant's smokestack doesn't tend to have the desired CO2 absorptive effect.

This thing is an ion exchange resin, and I don't think that's any more likely to survive in a smoke stack than a tree would be. The resin would be poisoned by tiny, tiny amounts of unburned combustion products-- it would be coated by them and no longer exchange anything-- and I think it's also questionable it would be able to survive the minerals like sulfur and mercury.

Not only that, once you've got the carbon dioxide, what do you do with it? There is simply no reasonable technological way to dispose of it that anyone has come up with so far. I like the idea of pumping it down into the ocean to a depth where it would liquefy, and having it sit around in a trench in vast pools, but aside from the expense, what happens with an earthquake or the development of black smokers, say?

Cut down the trees before they rot and release their carbon and turn them into furniture, houses, totem poles in which the carbon continues to be stored.

And the logs you can't use immediately, you sink in bodies of water, where they remain intact and even usable for hundreds of years. There are a million or so century-old sunken logs in Lake Superior alone which are in perfect condition and considered more valuable than any timber remaining anywhere in the world.

So for the next ten generations we devote ourselves to restoring the natural capital the profligate and gleeful destruction of which has fueled our three hundred year delusion of prosperity, and incidentally save the climate we evolved in, and without which our maximum possible sustainable population on this planet will be sharply reduced.
posted by jamjam at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Never fear, we can solve our problems with...Big Engineering!"

freebird: Just because your mechanic broke something else under the hood when he was replacing that oil filter doesn't mean you shouldn't ever let a mechanic work on your car again.

Besides, I don't think it was 'Big Engineering' in the abstract that caused these problems. It was 'Big Engineering' in service almost solely to commercial interests. All along, there have been engineers proposing less environmentally destructive alternatives to industrial technology development, but at the end of the day, we 'let the markets decide' what choices are in our best interests in this country.

Still, I agree with your central point:

Remember when interest in the environment had more than one component?

There are bigger lessons to be learned from all this then just, 'Oops, we screwed this one up, let's do our best to solve this problem and get back to life as normal.'
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2008


Also, for those of you interested in dissenters' views (and advocates' views), but are wary of visiting sites perhaps sponsored by Big Pollution, the scholar-types who produce Arts & Letters Daily now also produce Climate Debate Daily.
posted by notyou at 10:08 AM on June 9, 2008


Now, I DO believe in anthropogenic global warming - but the Ruddiman version.

Even if Ruddiman is right does it matter? It's really just a technicality as to when global warming started. There is no doubt that since the start of the Indistrial Revolution CO2 has gone up 40% which dwarfs any rise prior to that.

Re Warming - NOAA says this was a colder spring than normal, .7F below the 20th Century mean. Solar sunspot cycle 24 is late in starting, indicating a very possible solar cooling trend. And an icebreaker got trapped in arctic sea ice that wasn't supposed to be there.

"Climate" == "trends" and "probabilities" over a 20+ year period, individual events and years mean nothing (unless they confirm an on-going trend). The sun spot thing is ridiculous, just look at the data in the IPCC report.

Look if you want to be a skeptic there are an embarrassment of riches to choose from. At least though be a good skeptic, the problem these days is how poor a job the skeptics are doing. The evidence is just so strong and solid, the only way to refute it is with rhetorical tricks, lies, mis-representations, half-truths, ignorance of basic earth science and other things that have nothing to do with science.
posted by stbalbach at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Isn't it amazing that right-wing economists and bloggers know more about climate science that actual climate scientists?
posted by dirigibleman at 10:16 AM on June 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Eco and Blazecock Pileon, I think you should look again at what he's claiming. He claims that blue should be CO2 and red should be temperature. Note that you go backwards in time as you move to the right on the horizontal axis, so that the prominent peaks in the CO2 concentration, according to him, come after the peaks in temperature. I'm not by any means claiming he's right, but that part is at least coherent.

Better reasons to ignore that page include: the author's crappy credentials, poor citation habits, clear political motive, and excessive length.
posted by dsword at 10:17 AM on June 9, 2008


the scholar-types who produce Arts & Letters Daily now also produce Climate Debate Daily.

Climate Debate Daily was discussed in this MeFi FPP and largely criticized for its skewed format. Further google searches show a lot of dissatisfaction with it. I would not recommend it. Probably the best blog is and always has been Real Climate which has a low noise high quality original content written by climate scientists.
posted by stbalbach at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2008


I think carbon sequestration is like the containment field in ghostbusters.

Fine in theory until dickless shuts off the power grid.

then BAM!

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:06 AM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


stbalbach: "Air capture", by definition, means capturing the CO2 from ambient temperature air. "Stationary carbon capture" is CO2 from the hot exhaust of a power plant.

Ah. Terminology I did not know. Thanks.
posted by rusty at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2008


Eco, you made an error in interpreting the graph. That's fair enough, it's easy to do. But you were very quick to criticise the author and cast aspersions about their reliability based on your mistake. Perhaps you should reconsider that now?

Furthermore, it is an accepted fact that historical CO2 levels have lagged temperature. This isn't a "denialist" position - it's a widely recognised truth. Obviously views differ as to the reason for and the significance of this fact.
posted by standbythree at 11:24 AM on June 9, 2008


I'd feel better about spending massive amounts to cool the earth if someone could just point out where the thermostat should be set. Because it seems to me like it's been fairly variable, all the way from deep-freeze to semi-sauna, and just because WE find this temperature tolerable doesn't mean we're supposed to lock it down and never let it change.

No. you've got this all wrong. The idea is to stabilize the excess greenhouse gases and lessen the greenhouse effect. That is why all of the goals (80% by 2050, etc.) are focused on carbon dioxide targets--carbon dioxide, while not the most powerful radiative forcer by pound, has the longest atmospheric residence time and is emitted in the highest volumes of any of the anthropogenic GHG's.

You commit a sin of arrogance to think humans can control something like the weather. yet.

It's also not a new idea that land use change (destroying forest, soil, and wetland systems) is responsible for up to a third of anthropogenic CO2 emitted. But this fact doesn't change that oil-based industrial society emits the other two-thirds. it's not "either/or" but "both/and."
posted by eustatic at 12:14 PM on June 9, 2008


Thanks dsword, seems I can't read graphs. And standbythree, if you check my comments you can see that I was not putting the guy down. You see, I kind of like his page. That is why I linked to it in the first place.

Particularly his section on the absorption spectrum for carbon dioxide got my attention. To put it bluntly, it seems to suggest that only the first 100 ppm (or so) in the atmosphere matter from the climate warming/cooling standpoint.
posted by Eco at 12:17 PM on June 9, 2008


Eco, there's a rebuttal of Peden at Yahoo Answers.
posted by Gyan at 12:41 PM on June 9, 2008


Distributing Calcium Oxide in the upper atmosphere would turn the CO2 into Calcium Carbonate, limestone dust, That sequesters the bad CO2 for ages.
posted by hortense at 1:10 PM on June 9, 2008


What are you people talking about? Planting trees (outside of the tropics) only stores CO2 temporally, eventually the trees die, the wood rots, and the carbon is re-released. Obviously if you plant new forests, they'll soak up CO2 for a while but eventually it's just going to be re-released.

Planting "trees" does this. But Forests are self-sustaining and keep sequestering carbon bas they keep growing new trees and create other plants unique to forest ecosystems.
posted by tkchrist at 1:23 PM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eco, I apologise, I can't interpret the data in front of me either. I intended to direct my remarks to Blazecock.
posted by standbythree at 1:23 PM on June 9, 2008


Just because your mechanic broke something else under the hood when he was replacing that oil filter doesn't mean you shouldn't ever let a mechanic work on your car again.

I think that's a false analogy, since my car was designed and built by a mechanic. More like, everytime I take my daughter to get fixed by the mechanic, things go poorly.

Besides, I don't think it was 'Big Engineering' in the abstract that caused these problems. It was 'Big Engineering' in service almost solely to commercial interests.

I think that's an oversimplification - a *lot* of environmental change has been driven by huge numbers of nice agriculturalists over the centuries. "Big Engineering" is perhaps the wrong term here. I mean more like your analogy above: treating a complex dynamic system as if it was a simple engine with understood controls and readouts, and "fixing" it when it does things we don't like. To my mind, that underlies a lot of the well-intentioned mistakes we've made, and a lot of the well-intentioned solutions being proposed.
posted by freebird at 1:25 PM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bolding the puns in your brave sallies makes it feel like you think we're too stupid to get it. No cookie for you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:52 PM on June 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


freebird: So if we can't use engineering/technology to solve this, what alternatives do we have?
posted by aubilenon at 3:02 PM on June 9, 2008


freebird: So if we can't use engineering/technology to solve this, what alternatives do we have?

First: I'm not saying don't use technology. I'm saying don't treat this as a technological system you control and can "fix". Machines to suck CO2 from the air feels very much like the car mechanic approach, and just asking for a big smack from the Unintended Consequences Stick. Use technology to make implicit changes in our footprint and our ways of doing things, not to make explicit changes in the system which in all likelihood extend our footprint.

Second: Drive less and smarter. Eat less and smarter. Consume less and smarter. Throw away...you get where I'm going here, I think. Pretty low tech stuff, though tech can help.
posted by freebird at 3:19 PM on June 9, 2008


"Richard Branson has promised $25m to anyone who succeeds."

I have his answer and he can keep his twenty-five million dollars.

ANSWER:
Take twenty-five million dollars.
Buy some land.
Plant some trees.
Stand by the trees.
Exhale at them. A lot.
Refrain from cutting them down later.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:37 PM on June 9, 2008


Planting "trees" does this. But Forests are self-sustaining and keep sequestering carbon . . .

And just in case you were wondering whether there was any place around we could fit a forest or two (at least here in the old U.S. of A. . . . ).
posted by flug at 10:50 PM on June 9, 2008


I've seen this "when the trees die the CO2 is released" statement a few times now.

I don't believe it. Why would rotting wood release a lot of CO2? Seems to me it's far more likely to be taken up in the bodies of fungus and bacteria and small plants and so on. I've seen plenty of dead trees in my lifetime, and not once have I see a tree simply vaporize. There's always a lot of tree matter left over, and it always becomes a part of the soil.

So maybe someone with some actual fact-based knowledge can clear this up for me: do dead trees contribute significantly CO2?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:08 PM on June 9, 2008


So maybe someone with some actual fact-based knowledge can clear this up for me: do dead trees contribute significantly CO2?

Soil organic matter is an important carbon sequestration location. In addition to the trees and other plants themselves as they die and fall down, soil organic matter is made of leaves, twigs, and carbon compounds that leak out of plant roots, as well as dead microbes, insects, and animals. Some bacteria and fungi do respire CO2 as they consume soil organic matter, but at a much, much slower rate than CO2 is being stored in the trees and soil.

Disturbing the soil greatly increases the rate of oxidation of soil organic matter and release back to the atmosphere as CO2. Managing agricultural soil, as well as forests, for maximum long term carbon storage is a current area of very active research. Here's a google search for soil organic matter carbon sequestration just to give you an idea.

Scientists once had a lot of hope that increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere might stimulate increased rates of storage of soil organic matter, effectively helping to offset the increase in CO2. But recent studies under artificially increased CO2, like this one, have shown that doesn't appear to be the case.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:05 AM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let's sequester the carbon into diamonds.
posted by Laen at 10:13 AM on June 10, 2008


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