Our carbon emissions have reached alarming levels which urged governments around the world – through the Paris Climate Accord – to take measures by controlling dependence on fossil fuels and developing technologies that help in minimizing climate change. With the former, there has been a major shift on renewable energy; and with the latter, perhaps one machine is the only hope that could change the sad state of our environment.
This machine, developed by Swiss startup called Climeworks, sucks out carbon from the air. At a scale never done before.
Photo by Climeworks
Photo by Reuters
Using a technology called direct air capture, several of this machines now operate in a plant in Iceland. It is the world’s first “negative emissions” plant, turning carbon dioxide into stone.
It works just like a tree, able to absorb carbon dioxide, but on a much, much faster rate and in huge quantities. The toxic gas is injected into the ground to trap it permanently, eventually mineralizing in basalt rock chambers which reduces the risk of leakage back into the atmosphere.
Illustration by Climeworks
Photo via Quartz
This idea is not new. But the ‘carbon capture and storage’ technology is often too costly and produces leaks, especially direct air capture. But according to the brains behind the startup, they have made it possible to perfect the system.
Engineers at Climeworks are now able to capture CO2 at the plant in Iceland for the equivalent of less than $30 a metric ton. While that is four times the current price of carbon on exchanges in Europe, it just proves that carbon capture can be done relatively cheaper – for the sake of saving our environment.
Carbon-sucking is a critical component in this fight against climate change as changing the energy status quo can only do so much. Scientists have to extract CO2 from the atmosphere to be able to keep the limits adopted in the Paris Climate Accord.
Bill Hare of consultancy Climate Analytics believes so. He said in a London climate change conference, “If you’re really concerned about coral reefs, biodiversity [and] food production in very poor regions, we’re going to have to deploy negative emission technology at scale.
“I don’t think we can have confidence that anything else can do this,” he added.
It seems like the carbon-sucking machine is our only chance, unless new carbon capture tech is introduced.