~ Can we address the problem of climate change by simply sucking carbon out of the atmosphere?
Technically, yes. But practically, no.
...in a paper published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that trying to scrub the air is much more expensive than keeping it from getting dirty in the first place.It's not hard to understand the superficial appeal: we could continue with business as usual, and clean it up afterwards, or, you know, whenever.
For the scientists conducting the study, air capture was shown to be largely wishful thinking that distracts from more effective strategies for combating pollution and climate change. "We thought it was important to set the record straight because [air capture] has policy implications," said Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative and one of the report's authors. He said that air capture is appealing because it allows people to get away with not changing anything about their energy use.
Big Oil and King Coal would love it. They are responsible for so much of that carbon in the first place, and keenly resist any change to their practices and filthy habits. So who pays here? The ounce of prevention cuts into those industries' profits. The pound of cure? You can bet the taxpayer will get to pay entirely for that one.
For these reasons alone, expect more federal funding of research into how, in the name of economic competitiveness and job creation, we can all pay even more for the externalized costs created by the fossil industry.
Oh, and it's also incredibly energy-intensive as well. We'll need a lot more energy to operate these planetary gas scrubbers... Wonder who will sell us that?