Giant fans put in position, the flow of air through which would allow for the separating out of carbon from it. That carbon, in turn, through a number of intermediate processes, steps, to be converted into fuel for use in aircraft, automobiles, ocean-going vessels and trucks. An absurd notion? Apparently not.
In a New York Times article, this very concept is examined.
In the article in question there is reference to a company – Carbon Engineering, a company which is apparently engaged in the testing of a capability or technique or technology to not only suck carbon out of the atmosphere, but to either store said carbon (in the ground) or, using the alleged climate-altering element, to make fuel of all things, that is, after first undergoing a number of in-between process steps involving certain applied chemicals. The Times provides a detailed graphic that identifies Carbon Engineering as the graphic’s source.
That’s but the half of it. Another introduced idea by article author Clifford Krauss in this newsstory is that Carbon Engineering is apparently not the only company working on systems that have the capability to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Now, I don’t know about you, but all of this sounds a lot to me like fooling around with Mother Nature. To me, that’s risky business, especially if the notion of greenhouse gas emissions through anthropogenic release really is causing climate change and, by extension, global warming.
In other words and in no uncertain terms, if humans have the power to prompt a changing world climate, meaning, in this case, a rise in mean global surface temperature, by the same token, logic would also have it that humans likewise have the power to enable the reverse, that is, cause Earth’s average surface temperature to fall.
Which is what many if not all of those that are directly engaged, involved, if not immersed in said “atmospheric experimentation,” dare I say “atmospheric manipulation,” are probably banking on.
In my way of thinking this all sets an extremely dangerous precedent.
At first blush, carbon extraction and reuse may sound like the solution to solving the climate change/global warming issue, the end-all, be-all, if you will.
But, think about it. What if these systems that remove carbon from the air are scaled up to such a degree, extent, level, what-have-you, that eventually if not totally unexpectedly, the world’s average surface temperature goes into precipitous, irreversible decline? Is this even possible? Is it much ado about nothing?
At the end of the day, for those of us convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the introduction of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to the tune of gigatons every year attributed to the burning of fossil fuels is what is driving the planet’s current warming trend, then the inverse should be true, right?; that is, if carbon and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases can be captured from the air at an amount exceeding that which is being introduced, then theoretically, such should prompt global mean surface temperatures to fall, that is, presumably, after a certain lag time. In other words, such would not happen instantaneously, presumably.
If, on the other hand, your position is such that the introduction of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere prompted via anthropogenic means or any other way – irrespective of quantity absorbed – has no effect whatsoever on planet warming (global-mean-surface-temperature-wise or otherwise), then you no doubt subscribe to the belief that trying to get such to rise or fall (call it global-mean-surface-temperature-control), regardless of whatever anthropogenic technique there is out there attempting to do just that, is an impossibility – a complete waste of time, in other words.
Even if all of this engineering work at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere pans out, this still doesn’t address what I feel is the bigger picture and the more pressing problem of directly addressing and solving for the pollution in the air and the direct, negative effect such has (and continues to have) on human health.
In other words, while carbon and possibly other greenhouse gas emissions entering the atmosphere become fewer, the focus on mitigating such pollutants as fine particulates, oxides of nitrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, black and brown carbon, etc., could, as a consequence, quite possibly become less.
As to that last item and as far as I’m concerned, neither should this be allowed nor can we afford for such to happen.
That’s my take.
Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute