Suck carbon dioxide up into cool World

Researchers preparing to release chemicals from a balloon and are sucking carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with fans.

Backers say the projects are needed to find ways of fulfilling the aims of the Paris climate deal to curb global warming that researchers blame for causing heatwaves, rising sea levels and downpours.

The United Nations says the targets are far off track and won’t be met by simply decreasing emissions for example from cars or factories — especially after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 pact.

They’re currently pushing to keep down temperatures.

In the countryside near Zurich, Swiss firm Climeworks started to suck greenhouse gases from thin air in May with giant fans and filters at a $23-million project it calls the world’s first “commercial carbon dioxide capture plant”.

Worldwide, “direct air catch” research by a few companies like Climeworks has gained tens of millions of dollars recently from sources such as governments, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the European Space Agency.

Vast amounts of greenhouse gases would decrease global temperatures, a step, if buried underground.

Climeworks reckons the plant capacity is just 900 tonnes annually and it costs about $ 600 to extract a tonne of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That is equivalent to just 45 Americans’ emissions.

And Climeworks has a partnership with carmaker Audi, which expects to use carbon in fuels and sells the gasoline, at a loss, as a fertiliser to greenhouses.

Jan Wurzbacher, creator and manager of Climeworks, says that the company has ambitions by capturing one percent of international carbon emissions a year and cutting costs.

“Considering that the Paris Agreement, the company substantially changed,” he said, with a change in investor and shareholder interest away from industrial applications of carbon to controlling climate change.

But penalties for cars, power plants and factories to emit carbon dioxide are non-existent or low. It costs 5 euros ($5.82) a tonne from the European Union.

And isolating carbon dioxide is more complicated because the gas constitutes only 0.04 percent of the air. Carbon dioxide delivered for use in greenhouses or to create drinks fizzy, by trucks, costs up to about $300 a tonne in Switzerland.

Other firms involved in direct air catch comprise Carbon Engineering in Canada, Global Thermostat at america and Skytree from the Netherlands, a spinoff of the European Space Agency initially setup to find ways to filter out carbon dioxide breathed out by astronauts in spacecrafts.

Not science fiction

The Paris Agreement attempts to restrict a rise in world temperatures this century to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5C (2.7F) over pre-industrial times.

But U.N. data demonstrate that current plans for reductions in emissions will be inadequate, particularly without the United States, which the world might need to change to internet “negative emissions” this century by extracting carbon from character.

Riskier “geo-engineering” solutions might be a backstop, like dimming the planet’s sunshine, dumping iron to the oceans to soak up carbon, or attempting to create clouds.

One of new university study, a Harvard geo-engineering endeavor into dimming sunlight to cool the world set up in 2016 has increased $7.5-million from private donors. It plans a first experiment in 2018.

“If you would like to be confident for to 1.5 degrees you want to have solar geo-engineering,” said David Keith, of Harvard.

Keith’s team intends to launch about 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of sunlight pruning substance, possibly calcium carbonate, from a high-altitude balloon over Arizona next year at a very small experiment to determine how it impacts the microphysics of the stratosphere.

“I don’t think it’s science fiction … to me it is normal atmospheric science,” he said.

Some research indicates that weather patterns, for example, could impact and interrupt Monsoons.

And experts fear that pinning hopes on any technology is a diversion from reductions in emissions.

“Relying on large future deployments of carbon removal technology is similar to eating a great deal of dessert now, with good hopes for cleanliness tomorrow,” Christopher Field, a Stanford University professor of climate change, wrote in May.

Jim Thomas of ETC Group in Canada, that interrupts climate technology, said direct air catch could create “the illusion of a repair which may be used cynically or naively to amuse policy ideas like ‘overshoot”’ of the Paris goals.

But authorities face a dilemma. Average surface temperatures are already about 1C (1.8F) over pre-industrial amounts and hit record highs this past year.

“We are in trouble,” said Janos Pasztor, head of the new Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Project. “The question isn’t whether or not there’ll be an overshoot but by how many amounts and for how many decades.”

Faced with choices that are tough, many experts say that pulling carbon is one of the choices. Critics of major economies, except Trump, said in a summit in Germany this month that the Paris accord was “irreversible.”

‘Barking mad’

Raymond Pierrehumbert, a professor of physics at Oxford University, said solar geo-engineering projects appeared “barking mad”.

By comparison, he said “carbon dioxide elimination is challenging technologically, but warrants trial and investment.”

The natural way is to plant forests which absorb the gas that could divert huge tracts of land, although as they grow. Bury the carbon dioxide and another alternative is to build.

Carbon Engineering, set up with assistance in 2009 from Gates and Murray Edwards, chairman of oil and gas group Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, has increased with filters and turbines about a tonne of carbon dioxide per day.

“We are mainly looking to synthesise fuels” for markets like California with higher carbon costs, said Geoffrey Holmes, business development director at Carbon Engineering.

However he added that “the Paris Agreement helps” with longer-term choices of sucking big amounts from the atmosphere.

Among other techniques would be to create clouds which reflect sunlight back into space, perhaps.

This might be used everywhere, for instance, to protect the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, said Kelly Wanser, chief director of the U.S.-based Marine Cloud Brightening Project.

Wurzbacher in Climeworks is looking investors out on what he says is the offer to capture and bury 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide for $ 500 a tonne.

That might attract a business wanting to be on forefront of a technology, he said, though it makes no sense that was apparent.

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