Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Although their development and implementation can be costly, techniques to remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere may become increasingly important as the planet potentially shifts into permanently warmer state, according to a paper about to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Economic and political costs often hamper the development of techniques that could potentially lower the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The study´s authors warn that these costs are irrelevant because the world may already have crossed the threshold where limiting emissions alone can’t prevent catastrophic climate change.
“The field of carbon sequestration, the field of capture and storage as a community is too timid when it comes to new ideas,” said lead author Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy. “You cannot rule out new technology simply because the current implementation is too expensive.”
Methods are being developed to extract carbon dioxide directly from stationary sources such as coal-fired power facilities and storing or using it for other purposes, such as feeding algae farms to produce biofuel. However, more sources of carbon dioxide are much more difficult to address.
Experts are looking into developing systems that could capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere to combat emissions from cars and airplanes. The key to developing this technology is maximizing the energy efficiency of these carbon capture systems, according to the study.
The authors advise that the developing carbon capture and storage technology should not be in concert with strategies for a greener energy sector.
“In a way, it’s too late to argue that we shouldn’t consider [such] solutions. The concern that this kind of technology would give us an excuse not to do anything [to reduce carbon emissions] is wrong, because we’re too late for that,” Lackner said. “We have to push very hard right now, and we have to have every means at our disposal to solve this problem.”
As if to indicate the economic, and somewhat political, costs of pursuing such endeavors, American Physical Society released a recent study that stated current capture and storage methods are “not currently an economically viable approach to mitigating climate change.”
Highly politicized government investments in carbon capture and sequestration typically focused on removing CO2 from stationary sources and only produced viable results after years of research and millions of dollars.
The study´s authors argue that while these technologies have started out at a high cost, as the technology became refined and produced en masse, the investment began to pay off.
“Demanding an assurance of economic viability at the outset stifles innovation, favors incrementalism and keeps game-changing ideas from consideration,” the study said.
“The challenge seems large but no larger than the corresponding challenges in other climate mitigation technologies,” they say.
Removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere has been going on for decades on a small scale to maintain air quality in submarines and spaceships. Commercial processes used to liquefy air also require the removal of both water and CO2.