Monday, March 2, 2009

Carbon Capture and Storage / Air Capture

Planetary geo-engineering is defined as the "intentional manipulation to change the global properties of a planet." Most of these schemes are dismissed as being flawed because they lead to unintended consequences, because they are too expensive, or because they are temporary. I just read these interesting articles about carbon capture methods, and I want to suggest that they may not be worth dismissing out of hand.

First, I need to say the obvious: carbon capture and storage cannot solve the problem alone. We will need to also reduce fossil fuel usage, increase conservation/efficiency, increase renewables, increase nuclear, throw everything we have at this problem.

Second, I understand that carbon-capture and storage has not been demonstrated on a full-scale; however, again, I think it is necessary to remain open to the fact that the technology to build CCS plants exists and that it simply needs to be implemented.

Third, while carbon capture and storage is not cheap, it is worth noting that the alternatives like renewables that I mentioned earlier are not cheap either. I just read a report by a consortium of organizations arguing that building new capacity for wind may cost hundreds of billions of dollars. When discussing a problem as serious as climate change, I feel that one must be willing to try projects that have not been attempted before if they can represent a solution to the problem.

Four, the air capture system that I described earlier allows carbon already in the atmosphere to be removed, a useful proposition when discussing stabilizing carbon dioxide concentrations (not just emissions).

Five, while leakage is always mentioned as a possibility, the IPCC suggests that well-chosen sites could have up to a 99% retention rate for hundreds of years. I do not think it is worthwhile to fret about the possibility of stored carbon dioxide leaking while we are letting millions of tons of carbon dioxide freely enter the atmosphere right now.

So, should we use Carbon-capture and storage or air capture?

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